Week 8: Wikipedia, by Rachel Cole

11 Sep

Wikipedia is a collection of online encyclopaedia entries. Wikis (pages) draw on the skills of many people distributed across the globe. When Wikipedia started in 2000 (under the name of Nupedia) it created a new way of knowing which challenged the traditional hierarchies of knowledge. Although many people speak negatively of twitter, some look at the way that is improving standards due to the new media literacy it promises.

Random Statistics
-The one billionth edit of a wikipedia page happened on the 16th of April 2010
-The most amount of edits are due to abuse
-Dr. Blofeld has published the most articles (91717)
-There is a page about wikipediholics (a joke page about people who suffer from addiction to wikipedia) Wikipediholics are known as wikiaddicts, wikipaths or wikiholics.

Before Wikipedia, we had encyclopaedias. The first publication of the Encyclopaedia Britannica was in 1768 in Scotland.
I remember in primary school using these for projects and then moving on to the CD version called Encarta.


Does anyone still have a set in their house?

Henry Jenkins:

‘What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies’

Part 1:

Jenkins believes that it is ridiculous to tell people not to use Wikipedia; you can still read it without actually citing it. Encyclopaedias were never meant for citing anyway, just a way of getting basic background information. He says it’s almost as silly as telling people they can’t listen to rock and roll either.

He brings up the idea that the reason parents and teachers are so ‘afraid’ of Wikipedia is because it is technological, it sets up a divide between the generations that group up with computers and technology and the ones that didn’t.

He talks about the McArthur foundation which has committed to spending 50 million dollars over the next five years to support research which will help us understand the informal learning which takes place as children interact within the new media landscape.

According to a recent study from the Pew Center for Internet & American Life, more than half of all teens have generated media content and roughly a third of teens online have shared content they produced with others. In many cases, these teens are actively involved in what we are calling participatory cultures.

Have you ever made a Wikipedia page? Or have you contributed to other media content?

There is a lot of concern about the increasing reliance of students on Wikipedia pages. Teachers worry that their students aren’t filtering their information and checking if it is credible. This is a legitimate concern as anyone can publish to Wikipedia.

The Answer? According to Robert McHenry, is not to turn our backs on the enormous amount of information we can get from Wikipedia, but to help young people place Wikipedia in a larger context.

Part 2:

Pierre Levy has described Wikipedia as a ‘collective intelligence.’ Some people consider it as cheating but it is a way of collecting thousands of people’s knowledge together. It is also about letting people share what they know. Students should still be able to read wikis but that doesn’t mean they should take the information as it is and accept that it is correct. You need to look at who is giving the information and who they have sourced to get the information.

“What holds a knowledge community together is not the possession of knowledge but the social process of acquiring knowledge.”

Peter Walsh’s Expert Paradigm

1. The expert paradigm requires a bounded body of knowledge, which can be mastered by an individual. The types of questions that thrive in a collective intelligence are open-ended and profoundly interdisciplinary.

2. In the expert paradigm, there are some people who know things and others who don’t. A collective intelligence assumes that each person has something to contribute, even if they will only be called upon on an ad hoc basis.

3. The expert paradigm uses rules about how you access and process information, rules which are established through traditional disciplines. Within the collective intelligence model, each participant applies their own rules, works the data through their own processes, some of which are more convincing than others, but none of which are wrong at face value. Debates about rules are part of the process by which knowledge gets generated.

4. Experts are credentialized; they have gone through some kind of ritual which designates them as among those who have mastered a particular domain, most often through formal education. While participants in a collective intelligence often feel the need to demonstrate how they know what they know, this is not based on a hierarchical system and knowledge that comes from real life experience may be highly valued.

Another positive of Wikipedia is that people from different class, race, religious, ethnic, and gender backgrounds will choose to write about different topics, including many which are under-represented in standard reference works. This again places new emphasis upon the problems caused by the participation gap.

An issue I have with Wikipedia… Pages can get deleted by anyone.

Terrance Daniel Briscoe, an Anmatyerrre man from Alice Springs was found dead in police custody early this year. A Wikipedia page was created about this and was removed. This is information that I believe should be public as most people are unaware of the huge amounts of deaths in custody for Aboriginal people. There has been a royal commission into Aboriginal deaths in custody and it is a very serious issue. Terrance Daniel Briscoe was kicked and beaten to death by police while they tried to get him into a cell. There has been no official enquiry into the case.

Australian National University, ‘Research Skills: should I use Wikipedia? Use but don’t cite.’

This article accepts the fact that Wikipedia is a good think as it is a freely accessible encyclopedia. Some entries are very up-to-date and there is information on some very obscure topics. However the negatives are that articles are not always written by experts in the field, they are quite often biased and can contain incorrect information.

So should you use Wikipedia?
This article says ‘Yes, as a starting point in your research- a way of approaching a concept, idea, event, issue, etc. (2006).’

I do this if I have no idea about a topic I need to research and just want to get a basic understanding before I start an assignment.

Have you ever done this? Or are you told not to?

The article answers the question ‘Should I cite Wikipedia in my essays?’ with as a general rule- NO.
Because… It is an encyclopedia- a primary research source and because it is not selective in what is/isn’t included in articles.

In Conclusion…

There are a lot of negatives AND positives of Wikipedia.

And for those who think it is completely stupid, look at these useful things you can find on Wikipedia…


Jenkins, Henry 2007 ‘What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies’ (Part one and two)

Australian National University Research Skills ‘Should I use Wikipedia? Use but don’t cite.

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