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The Rare Defense of Wikipedia

nk0825's picture

As I was reading the Digital Humanities Manifesto I found myself respecting the authors who wrote it and intrigued by their rational. I thought that some of the statements made were rather bold. For example, "The digital realm [is] open source, open resource...anything trying to close space is the enemy." I think it may be a bit extreme to call anything trying to somewhat privatize the internet an enemy, yet I do believe it can be moreso something of a progress blocker?

I was amused by the idea of Wikipedia as a Wikiversity. I was able to make a personal connection (as I'm sure many others were too) because I have often visited Wikipedia not for respectable research information but to gain background information on something that I was unfamiliar with. I respect the idea that "Wikipedia represents a truly global, multilingual authorship and editorial collective for gather, creating, and managing information. " I am aware that this statement may make some people cringe, like teachers, professors, publishers, just to name a few....but I mean, the authors do have a valid point. Wikipedia is a forum that engages the knowledge of thousands of people, all able to add in their thoughts/knowledge/experience to a particular entry. This is huge progress for the digital humanities. I think that people need to stop thinking so restrictively about the digital humanities. Why can't something like the digital humanities encompass a myriad of means to share information? I suppose this relates back to our categorization question concerning genres, and I think maybe I'm beginning to let go of that I NEED to categorize phase that many of us found ourselves in during the first weeks of class. 

In addition to these thoughts I'm curious to see what our senior visitors during tomorrow's class have to say about their experience with the internet. Have either of them found that the Internet has helped them with their English major by allowing them to quickly share information or have access to different authors? Have they utilized the internet for their own publishing endeavors? And alongside of these questions I can't help but wonder how do they feel about categorizing themselves as an English major? 


Herbie's picture


I don't think that professors automatically discount Wikipedia as an information source because it's online as fanfiction is dismissed for being online.  Personally, I think fan fiction is dismissed primarily because of the overall terrible writing and potential copyright issues, but that's another argument for another day.
I think the beef with Wikipedia isn't even so much that anyone can update it.  In fact, I rather think that's fantastic! I got a good laugh when Pope Benedict was ordained because I managed to catch a glimpse of his Wikipedia page while the picture was actually of Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars films.  The problem is when the updates are factually incorrect and therefore disseminating incorrect information to people who will most likely never discover their ignorance.
If everyone were only updating the Wikipedia articles they knew things about and could back up with other data, Wikipedia would be great.  But that's unfortunately not the case.  I don't want for academics to restrict knowledge to the intellectual elite, but I'm also against people learning incorrect information.  For instance, I went on the tour at Independence Hall last weekend, where the guide from the National Park Service was telling factually incorrect material.  I'm just as against that kind of falsehood as I am against incorrect articles on Wikipedia.

Shayna S's picture

Why not Wiki?

Why do professors hate Wikipedia so? The "reason" I've heard is that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, therefore it is unreliable. But wait. Why is this such a bad thing? Can it be that teachers/professors/etc. do not trust Wikipedia as a reliable source because doing so would undermine the status of peer-reviewed journals (and the like) as the only legitimate ways of communicating elite, academic knowledge, and thus undermining the gatekeeper status of professors?  There probably is a great argument for having caution in using such an available (and easily constructable?) websource. Is Wikipedia in the same category of fanfiction as being an illegitimate source of literature/ knowledge because of its online nature? 

As for the English majors, I'd like to know how they feel about posting online when they are so close to applying for long-term jobs. 


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