Democratization of knowledge

Democratization of knowledge

The democratization of knowledge is the acquisition and spread of knowledge amongst the common people, not just privileged elites such as priests and academics.



The printing press was one of the early steps towards the democratization of knowledge.[1]

Another small example of this during the Industrial Revolution was the creation of libraries for miners in some Scottish villages in the 18th century.[2]

Wikipedia is rapidly turning into a real-time reference tool in which public entries can be updated by anyone at any time. This phenomenon—a product of the digital age—has greatly contributed to the democratization of knowledge in the modern era.

In the Digital Age

Wikipedia co-founder, Larry Sanger, states in his article,[3] that “Professionals are no longer needed for the bare purpose of the mass distribution of information and the shaping of opinion.” Sanger’s article confronts the existence of “common knowledge” and pits it against knowledge that everyone agrees on.

In terms of democratization of knowledge, Wikipedia has played a major role. For instance, Wikipedia has attracted 400 million viewers across the globe and has communicated with them in over 270 languages. To show its international presence, Wikipedia raised over $16 million from 500,000 individuals worldwide. These donations make it possible for Wikipedia to continue offering free information. Wikipedia plans on expanding its reach, more specifically, it wants to spread to Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and South America. It even plans to open business in India, which would be its first international opening.[4] The range in which Wikipedia articles are published is also interesting to note. For example the English language Wikipedia has over 3 million articles while the number of articles in German is around 1 million. The French language has produced nearly a million articles while Spanish has a little more than half of a million articles.[5] The total number of articles produced in different languages totals 17 million.[6] In the end, Wikipedia wants to reach more people with more languages, while still remaining free for everyone to access.

Google Book Search has been pointed to as an example of democratization of knowledge, but Malte Herwig in Der Spiegel raised concerns that the virtual monopoly Google has in the search market, combined with Google's hiding of the details of its search algorithms, could undermine this move towards democratization.[1]

Scientific knowledge

The website eBird has been described as an example of democratization of scientific knowledge,[citation needed] as it enlists amateurs to gather data on biodiversity for use by scientists.[7]

See also