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June 29, 2007

Britannica vs Wikipedia


Michael Gorman + danah boyd

"Perhaps this view of an emerging collective human consciousness is ... if it is put forward seriously, it is antihuman and intellectually debasing. The structures of scholarship and learning are based on respect for individuality and the authentic expression of individual personalities. The person who creates knowledge or literature matters as much as the knowledge or the literature itself ... An encyclopedia (literally, the “circle of learning”) is the product of many minds. It is not the product of a collective mind. It is an assemblage of texts that have been written by people with credentials and expertise and that have been edited, verified, and supplied with a scholarly apparatus enabling the user to locate desired knowledge. It differs in almost all relevant particulars from one of the current manifestations of the flight from expertise—Wikipedia, which bills itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” and to which everyone can contribute irrespective of whether they possess, or simply pretend to possess, credentials and expertise..." Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, Part II by Michael Gorman, Britannica Blog.

" ... The Internet - and Wikipedia - change the rules for distribution and production ... It means that individuals who know something can easily share it, even when they are not formally declared as experts. It means that those with editing skills can help the information become accessible, even if they only edit occasionally. It means that multi-lingual individuals can help get information to people who speak languages that publishers do not consider worth their time. It means that anyone with an Internet connection can get access to information traditionally locked behind the gates of institutions (and currently locked in digital vaults).

Don’t get me wrong - Wikipedia is not perfect. But why do purported experts spend so much time arguing against it rather than helping make it a better resource? ... While there are certainly errors there, imagine what would happen if all of those who view themselves as experts took the time to make certain that the greatest and most broad-reaching resource was as accurate as possible ... Why are we telling our students not to use Wikipedia rather than educating them about how Wikipedia works? Sitting in front of us is an ideal opportunity to talk about how knowledge is produced, how information is disseminated, how ideas are shared ...

The society that (Dr. Gorman) laments has lost faith in the public good ... Wikipedia is a public-good project. It is the belief that division of labor has value and that everyone has something to contribute, if only a spelling correction. It is the belief that all people have the inalienable right to knowledge, not just those who have academic chairs. It is the belief that the powerful have no right to hoard the knowledge. And it is the belief that people can and should collectively help others gain access to information and knowledge." Knowledge Access as a Public Good by danah boyd.

Posted by jo at June 29, 2007 02:17 PM