Introduction

Wikipedia is an immensely popular and accessible online encyclopaedia. However, according to Jenkins, “it nonetheless suffers invariably from inaccuracies deriving in large measure from its unique manner of compilation.” (Jenkins 2007).

Created by Jimmy Wales, the site was officially launched on January 15, 2001.  During the site’s early days, “a core of scholarly, traditional entries” were used, including articles from the Encyclopedia Britannica. The true innovation of this website was that the creator invited the sites users to play a key role in contributing information to the articles. (Nix, 2010).

How to Edit a Wikipedia Article: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C7yXx3YbcNI&feature=relmfu

How to Create a Wikipedia Article: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1CwiZIsaM7s

Some statistics about Wikipedia:

Wikipedia had amassed 20, 000 articles by the end of its first year online. At the close of 2008, it held 2.6 million English-language articles, followed by over 3 million articles in 2009.

Anyone could edit these articles, whether they are an expert, or a “15 year old with an active imagination.”  (Nix, 2010)

Many students began to add their own articles to the site. Because of this, Wikipedia implemented the following notification: “This article or section needs to be Wikified to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards.” Therefore, this website does have standards which need to be met when submitting an article, and instantaneous feedback is provided for students who submit articles. (Nix, 2010)

However many academic’s have questioned the reliability of Wikipedia, and have strongly advised students against using it. One particular controversy erupted at Vermont’s Middlebury College. This occurred in 2006, when this college’s history department “took a public stance against students referencing Wikipedia in their research papers.” (Jenkins, 2007).

Nix, E (2010), ‘Wikipedia: How it Works and How it Can Work for You,’ History Teacher, Vol. 43 Issue 2, pp. 259-264.

Jenkins, H (2007) ‘What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies (Part One)’ http://henryjenkins.org/what_wikipedia_can_teach_ab.html/

 

Wikipedia Reconsidered

How many of us have at least used the information we have found in Wikipedia for any of our research papers?

Jenkins suggests at least one out of ten students has used the information sourced in Wikipedia for their research paper.

This continues to be a concern for most teachers. As young people move into the new technology like Wikipedia which produces free information that does not give credibility to any of the content found by students or researchers.

Jenkins (2007) suggests we look at how Wikipedia works on underneath the surface, in order to realise the potentials of Wikipedia:

*Every day there are more than 75,000 active contributors working on some 5,300,000 articles in more than 1000 languages. [With] hundreds of visitors from around the world make tens of thousands of edits and create thousands of new articles to enhance the knowledge held by Wikipedia Encyclopedia.

*People come together in Wiki to write about a particular topic and the truth about it, including the facts about that particular topic, then gets revised by other Wikipedians who does proofreading and facts checking on articles contributed to Wiki. Dissimilar to encyclopedia which Wiki has also claimed the encyclopedia analogy; encyclopedia deposits of an already completed process of writing and research.

*Anyone can contribute their articles to the site, even a student can contribute a topic they have researched in school to Wikipedia.

*Wikipedia is an open site which accepts given entry contributed, even by a student, can contribute a topic they have researched in school to Wiki. Which can mean that “any given article may be at any given moment, [be] in a bad state” (Jenkins 2007, p.4). For example, a contributed article can be in the middle of a large edit or have been recently vandalised when a researcher have come across it. However, vandalism can be usually easily spotted and rapidly corrected, “Wikipedia is certainly more subject to subtle vandalism than any typical reference work” (Jenkins 2007, p.4).

*Wikipedia has a community which takes responsibility to protect the integrity and accuracy of contents contributed; including procedures that allow rapid error and respond errors, meaning information provided on Wiki may be more up-to-date than found in encyclopedia, the contributed article is more subject to continuous revision.

*Wiki has a community which judges at any given moment on the accuracy given in an entry. Entries that receive heavy traffic receive more attention than others that does not get viewed often. Consequently “someone using the Wikipedia needs to assess the state of a current entry” (Jenkins 2007, p.4).  Spot any warnings given on a particular content. The following video demonstrates where the warnings can be found: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QY8otRh1QPc (play 2:05-2:10).

Jenkins suggests it is not a good idea for students going to Wikipedia in search of quick data and does not assess carefully any of the information found on Wiki.  Students should not reference Wiki on their school paper. However, the potentials with Wiki are that students may use reference and external links at the end of the Wikipedia article for sources to cite in a research paper. Or students can learn more about a world that they don’t understand from Wikipedia.

Wikipedia movement

–       This emphasizes a new kind of knowledge production Pierre Levy has described as collective intelligence

–       Collective intelligence refers to the potential to allow many different minds to operate in different contexts and work together to solve problems that are to challenging for any of the contributors to master as individuals

–       Everyone shares the knowledge they know which is available a group of people immediately

Positives of Wikipedia on students:

–       Wikipedia allows for young people to learn what it is like to work together within a knowledge culture

–       Participating in the Wikipedia community helps young people to think about their own roles as researchers and writers in new ways

–       Unlike schools who expect student to study the same content, Wikipedia allows for students to focus on their own particular skills, knowledge, and experience as well as being active contributors to particular topics of interest. It also does not only focus on having the right answer to receive a grade but rather to produce credible information others can count upon

–       Allows for students to feel as if their knowledge contributes to the larger world around them. It invites students to imagine what it might mean to consider themselves as experts as they collect and communicate what they know

–       The Wikipedia Project’s openness to knowledge not valued in academic settings makes it possible for young people to contribute. What makes Wikipedia different to other encyclopedias is the ability for young people to write about popular culture which they have an interest in and  exceed their elders when it comes to contributing new knowledge to the world

–       All types of people from different class, race, religious, ethnic, and gender backgrounds will choose to write about different topics. This could be topics that do not have a large emphasis in standard reference works

Wikipedia space is free and unlimited so the amount of space devoted to a particular topic is reflected by a range of different factors such as what the community knows or feels able to communicate about a topic.

Someone who cares deeply about a subject takes the first crack towards writing an entry and others who share her interests may also contribute, thus often swelling its word count.

Some of the skills enhanced through active engagement with Wikipedia are:

–       Collective Intelligence

–       Judgment

–       Networking

–       Negotiation

Participants must trust their collaborators to fill in information they do not know as well as challenge their claims about the world

According to several Wikipedia’s being interviewed results have suggested that there are several shared principles among them. One of the main ones being that they agree  to work together to ensure that all points of views get shared rather than arguing a point – Wikipedia’s call this ‘adopting a natural point of view’. The focus on neutrality is important when looking at the global context in which Wikipedia operates. All of the groups want to ensure that their perspectives are fairly represented in the most widely English language. This may also benefit young people by providing them with good skills at navigating across cultural differences.

What knowledge counts????

–       Wikipedians also argue that the question isn’t what knowledge matters but rather what knowledge matters to whom under what circumstances for what purposes

–        The whole point is to produce a work which can serve many different purposes and which may offer many different structures of information

–       David Weinberger said in his book ‘Everything is Miscelaneous’
“It’s not about who is right and who is wrong. It’s how different points of view are negotiated, given context, and embodied with passion and interest”

When understanding the Wikipedia movement it is important that we ensure the diversity of participation. We should broaden who gets to participate in the process of knowledge, production and evaluation of Wikipedia

Jenkins, H 2007, ‘What Wikipedia can teach us about the new media literacies (part two)’ viewed 7 sept 2012, retrieved from http://henryjenkins.org/2007/06/what_wikipedia_can_teach_us_ab_1.html

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j-zCDxKDg58

QUESTION
Do you think Wikipedia is a reliable academic source for students to use? Yes or no? why or why not?

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