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Culture & Religion

Walter Isaacson’s Prediction For Digitally Crowdsourced Authorship

The biographer evaluates the current state of technology-based communities and suggests that future innovations will completely revolutionize the way we write books.

Author Walter Isaacson is featured on today’s home page in a discussion of the the inextricable link between new technologies and the communities that form around them. Isaacson was astounded when researching his new book, The Innovators, to discover the degree to which the human need for connectivity thrives within innovation:














At the end of the interview, Isaacson posits a future where authoring books becomes a major crowdsourcing project. He points to his own experience in writing The Innovators as something of an omen: 

"I put a lot of it online. I put it up drafts on places like so people could write their comments. People could add their own anecdotes, their own tales."

Throughout his talk, Isaacson points to the establishment of specialized communities around digital innovations. You've got your blogging community, social media community, gamer and mod communities; communities of coders and designers and innovators; groups of people who have connected over Twitch, Reddit, Twitter, etc. Pretty much every appealing digital innovation comes with its own set of acolytes. So Isaacson's point in bringing up books is that we could be on the precipice of a major innovation that allows for a radically heightened state of author collaboration. Let's say, for example, that tomorrow some college sophomore at Stanford starts a website that's pretty much the Soundcloud for writers. And through this medium, just as there's currently a community of folks who live and breathe Soundcloud, a culture emerges which promotes similar collaboration in authorship.

Isaacson says, "why not?"

"So I could imagine narrative nonfiction, books that are biographies or histories – instead of being written by one author could be curated by an author but written by dozens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people who are all involved in a particular process. They can each put up their videos, their notes, their oral histories, their diagrams, write their stories, tell their stories. Videotape their stories and put them all up and they can be curated into sort of a crowdsourced living book that you can explore and interact with not just read what only the author wanted to tell you was the narrative."

What tech communities have you been a part of? What are some future technologies you could envision becoming a community-building sensation? Let us know what you think in the comments below.


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