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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Wikipedia and the Information Revolution

by Jennifer Cox (writer), Anaheim, December 18, 2006

I was first introduced to Wikipedia when I saw a shirt bearing their logo. My boyfriend joked about it and I gave him a strange look. He told me about it and I checked it out. Since then I have used it many times and it seems like I’ve been hearing about it more and more. Wikipedia defines itself as “a multilingual, Web-based free content encyclopedia project.” At first glance it may seem like just another website, but it’s more than that. It is a part of the trend in shifting information from a tangible format to a digitized one. It is also an example of information being not only freely distributed but also freely assembled. This idea has caused quite a controversy because it brings up the nature of truth.

One important element of the site is that anyone is able to modify its contents. This means that not all contributors are experts. The purpose of this is to lend an egalitarian nature to information. According to the site itself, “one of Wikipedia's core policies is that articles must be written from a ‘neutral point of view’…Wikipedia articles do not attempt to determine an objective truth on their subjects, but rather to describe them impartially from all significant viewpoints.” The positive side of this is that it results in entries that are thorough and unbiased.

Its critics argue that anyone having the ability to freely edit the site makes the information it contains unreliable. As someone who has devoted her life to the distribution of information, both as a writer and as someone studying to be a librarian, this is an issue of some importance. It was not hard for me to find plenty of people who have a negative opinion of the site. Many of the arguments I read are adamantly against the site. They see it as an assault on serious scholarship. Among it’s many opponents area good number of librarians. A part of me can understand this because they see it as an affront to their lives’ work and a possible threat to their jobs. I am also drawn to this side because of a personal affection for the written word in physical form, such as books. The other side of me sees that this is part of the inevitable switch that the world of information is taking and luckily I have decided to work with it rather than against it.
It is important that information be readily available to anyone who desires it. But it is dangerous to allow things to be posted as factual without verification. Still, this is not really the spirit of the argument.

The issue goes deeper than merely how truthful Wikipeda entries are; it goes to the heart of the nature of truth. What makes something a fact and who makes that decision? Is something a fact because there is some outside reality that makes it one, or is it just a fact because the majority agrees upon it? There are some things that can be easily established as fact, but there are many things that are not so simple. For much of human history those in power have controlled ideology by what truths they allow to be given. This is significant because getting people to agree upon something as fact can have a severe impact on their mindset and how they live. The rise of Wikipedia is an example of people acknowledging the power that exists in knowledge and information. Even if it does have some problems, I think it is a step in the right direction.


About the Writer

Jennifer Cox is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Wikipedia and the Information Revolution

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By noonchild on December 18, 2006 at 07:02 pm
...not only the right direction - let's face it, it's the only direction.
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By rictusette on January 14, 2007 at 04:03 am
smart and poignant piece.
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By Credo on September 16, 2013 at 05:06 am

Artfully interesting presentation! Considering the nature of fact and perception. History being what it appears to be as designed by the establishment leaves very little room for speculation. Facts are very difficult to come by as a result of all the tamperings, so Wikipedia may be a grand exploration in which we may discover reality.

Wise post...

:)Credo

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By herma88 on June 12, 2014 at 11:57 pm

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