Ghostfooting

critical reading for the rude

wiki dot edu

Liz liked this, says I should share it (this follows on from e-mails abt Wikipedia in education), so here it is:

Lordy, what a big topic.
Turns out that Wikipedia and Britannica are about as equally accurate on scientific topics…
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v438/n7070/full/438900a.html
Librarians debate this all the time, and the best bet is that we haven’t seen what Wikipedia‘s going to shake out to be, yet.  Like a new housing development, it takes time to “see what the neighborhood’s gonna do.”

But for me the most important thing is not to lose sight of what Wikipedia is meant to do.  It’s not an “academic” source in any way.  It’s an encyclopedia — a general reference — with an authority problem (meaning that it’s particularly difficult to evaluate for authority, since we really don’t know who “CommanderTACO1984” really is or what s/he really knows).  I teach the use of Wikimedia projects in info literacy classes, and I show how easy it is to abuse the projects as a warning to students not to give Wikipedia (in particular) more credit than it’s due.

All that said, it definitely has its uses… and some damn fine ones!  Besides the fact that mass-editing has the net-effect of making it more or less accurate, it’s almost always a great source for finding links to more and better info on a topic (except when spam links are added…)  For anything more than the most casual general-info uses, anything related to actual school work in any way, I think it’s best to think of Wikipedia as an extremely extensive annotated webliography.

But then, too, there’s all the broader wikification it’s causing in the culture.

Remember how Uncle Dubya mandated that the various federal spy clubs find a way to share info pan-agency?  Their solution is ” intellepedia“.  A wiki for spooks.  And it seems to be working for them.

I think it’s going to be another few (or dozen) years before the influence of “wikiness” is very widely felt, but there’s some potential for big, big, & wide, wide influence.  It’s the vanguard of 2.0 ideas: the net in fact is not a one-way channel, and there is enormous power in masses of anonymous users freely sharing what they know.

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April 2, 2007 - Posted by | info sci

1 Comment »

  1. I think it’s funny you reference commander taco, as he’s famous IT-wise. Try out slashdot sometime if you haven’t and you’ll see what I mean…

    Comment by Adam | April 3, 2007 | Reply


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