Although most of the communities present in the “intellectual communities” section belong in the “art” domain, many of them are related to general intellectual issues, ranging from philosophical debates and scientific issues to social networks of bibliophiles. Our aim is to present, with your help, sites that promote scientific and rational thought and, through public dialogue, re-interprets and expands the boundaries of human thought, understanding, logic, technology, metaphysics and their multitude of applications and practices. Furthermore, knowing that the majority of our visitors come from the world of art, the art communities included here, vigorously promote the elements of participation, communication and dialogue.
EBSQ is a community of creators, offering the works of artists, artisans and photographers; it is a place where professionals can promote their work using the unlimited space provided as well as various services such as digital certification, access to monthly exhibitions, blogs, a learning section and, of course, a very active members’ community .
The site is host to more than 300.000 works of art over 61 categories; among them “watercolors”, “mosaics”, “glassworks”, “black and white photography” etc, while it also organizes regular thematic competitions where the members submit their works and the best are elected by the site’s visitors. The access is free for visitors but artists pay an annual fee of $89 so they can use the various services provided. Like all self-respected communities, EBSQ also features a very active forum with more than 43.000 members and over 18.000 discussion threads.
When you are one of the world’s top financial publications and create a platform for public dialogue, this platform needs to meet very high quality standards; everyone who has tried to participate in a public discourse on the Internet knows that sooner or later, a discussion might lose track and degenerate into personal attacks, completely tearing down the concept of dialogue. The usual way to avoid such a situation is by appointing a mediator who will supervise what is being discussed.
As for the matter of the level of the dialogue being kept high, the Economist offers two solutions: first the discussion topics come from current events and second top intellects with contrasting opinions are invited to cross swords and arguments; the site’s public can vote for the one or the other side, taking into account the “speakers” views. At the end, the prevailing opinion is elected by putting the opposing sides to vote.
John Brockman is a literary agent who in 1995 wrote the book “The Third Culture”; the book was inspired by a famous lecture by the author and scientist C.P. Snow which was part of the 1959 celebrated series of “Rede Lectures” in the University of Oxford. The book covered the work of various eminent scientists who communicated their novel -and sometimes provocative- ideas directly to the public. Edge.org is an extension of that book, a place where bold opinions from a wide scientific spectrum are being discussed.
The site is unique in that the articles it provides come from some of the most important thinkers of our time; people like biologist Richard Dawkins, author Nicholas Carr, composer Brian Eno, anthropologist Jared Diamond, physicist Freeman Dyson etc. The subjects covered vary considerably; from biotechnology to consciousness, consumerism or terrorism.
If you’re a bookworm you’ll love this web site. It is a social network built on books preferences; it sounds simple and it is. The operation of the site is divided in two phases: In phase one we rate books we have read, a very simple function since we search for books and when what we look for is displayed we simply give it a one to five rating. If we rate more than twenty books the web site uses those ratings to suggest us new titles; the suggestions are a result of other users’ preferences.
By knowing which books we have given high ratings to the site searches for other members with similar high ratings in the specific titles; this means that the members it finds probably share our preferences so it can suggest titles that have high ratings from them but are not in our collection. In the second phase the site can import data from our network of contacts through Facebook, Twitter, Gmail, etc, thus allowing us to build a new network and be able to see our friends’ and acquaintances’ selections in books. A very simple idea with excellent implementation resulting in a very tempting proposition.
Usually, when we are referring to “Internet communities”, we think of groups of people and not companies or organizations. In this case, though, we do have a community of organizations; particularly the international community of museums which numbers about 30,000 members (2,000 museums and 28,000 professionals) and was founded in 1947.
The site offers information about the organization’s mission and goals, about its various representatives in 117 countries, various print guides for museums’ activities, an extensive bibliographic database of various museum-related subjects and a news section. Even though it is not a typical community, Icom.museum has something unique to offer and it certainly deserves the attention of everyone interested in museums.
Skeptic is an association of scientists, academics, journalists and historians aiming to promote rationalism and scientific thought through the research and debunking of arguments based on pseudo-science, myths and any nonsense challenging common sense. Since 1992, the association has been publishing a quarterly journal with the same name; the web site is this journal’s online extension.
In Sceptic.com you can find a wealth of valuable information including its forum with hundreds of thousands of postings for subjects like conspiracy theories, holocaust denial, creationism, UFO, climate change etc. As expected, the most essential section of the site is the thematic articles’ archive containing thousands of texts on every conceivable subject; if, for example, an acquaintance claims that vaccination can cause autism a visit to this site will provide you with all the essential arguments you need to retort.