Saturday, January 31, 2009

Wikipedia : The Debate Continues...

I presented the following chart - which I constructed from David Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous - in a discussion about the institutional respectability (or lack of) for Wikipedia. It compares the online (copy-left) encyclopedia with Britannica, symbol of academic kosher-ness.
For those of us unwilling to include citations or references from Wikipedia or grant it 'academic' status, we should at least ask ourselves:
  • What's wrong with Wikipedia being authored by anonymous folks? Why can't we let the knowledge stand on its own?

  • Why don't we give more credit to Wikipedia for at least being forthright about possible non-neutrality of articles? How many citable books do NOT include this (yet expect us to take 'their side' of the debate?)

  • Why don't we credit Wikipedia for providing a discussion area where the issues can be thrashed out? And isn't the on-going, non-definitive (emergent?) nature of the articles a plus? Aren't these (again) yet another improvement over the standard 'acceptable' texts which are (wrongly) 'definitive' and can only point to more references (if at all) for the historical discussion?

  • Why don't we commend the collaborative nature of the articles in Wikipedia? Why are we more impressed with articles which were written by just ONE person?

Finally, on a practical note, when mistakes are made, they are almost instantaneously corrected in Wikipedia - can't say the same for the rest.

So, what's "academically inappropriate" about Wikipedia again? Thoughts welcomed.

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