Wikinomics and Web 2.0 technologies represent as important a historical phenomenon as the birth of bureaucracy; indeed, we should refer to this moment in time as signaling a participatory turn in our culture.Yet whereas this participatory turn is rewriting the rules for many industries, most notably the software industry, we have yet to witness the full effects on the university—specifically on how we might organize, manage, and lead colleges and universities in the future. The question for those of us in higher education is, How might the logic of Web 2.0, the logic of commons-based peer production, and the logic of platform management transform the idea of the university and the very activities—teaching and learning, research, and publishing—that lie at the heart of this enterprise?
Again, the real significance of wikinomics and Web 2.0 technologies is that they signal a participatory turn in our culture; it is about the people involved and how they are organized, not just the content produced or the technology used for its distribution.
What sorts of innovations might emerge in such a university-as-sandbox, in a wiki-ized university? As in the first European universities, teachers and students might come together to form voluntary associations around areas of common interests. But in a wiki-ized university, they would be even more self-governed and autonomous. Teachers with an interest in a subject and a desire to share their knowledge with others would enter the platform of the wiki-ized university in order to locate and attract students with a desire to learn. When enough teachers and students coalesce around a particular topic of interest, they would form their own school or department. More important, these schools or colleges would form and unform as collaborations between teachers and students ebb and flow: today, one subject may be in the ascendency, but in two years, another newly emerging field of interest might arise or perhaps two other schools may have merged in the interests of interdisciplinary collaboration.