Note to self, must get around to participating on the Wiki site that's sprung up around one of the presentations at the New Media Consortium Summer Conference 2004. Alan Levine, D'Arcy Norman and Brian Lamb are inviting people to align themselves with one of the camps in a centralist vs decentralist debate about the use of software tools in web-based collaboration but ultimately about (I guess) e-learning. As I don't subscribe to either extreme view I appear to be forced to join the FenceSitter camp, though that's an unfortunate title as I don't think I'm a fence sitter in the sense of being undecided. However in the spirit of Alan, D'Arcy and Brian's invitation these camps aren't meant to be too serious, they're just there to provoke debate.
There's a lot to read on the related Wikis already so I'm just working through that before leaving my own comments. I expect the comments I'll likely make will draw some distinction between informal web-based collaboration for whatever purpose (e.g a community of patient self-help groups) that can be conducted in a completely decentralized manner and formalised education where some degree of centralization is essential to provide continuity and context in a student's experience, not least from the point of view of accreditation (e.g. formal medical education & training).