What is Wikipedia? “Wikipedia is more of a socially produced documentation, than a value-free information source. It reflects the viewpoints, interests and emphases of the people who use it.” (Royal, Kapila, 2009). I first heard about Wikipedia back in high school, which was about 7 years ago now. I didn’t really understand what Wikipedia was, but all I was told was to avoid using it a source; since it was not credible. After being told that I tried to avoid using it when doing a search on google. Once I got to University, essay’s after essay’s; class after class; professor after professor, who continuously say “do not use Wikipedia, the information can be false.” After hearing this so many times I asked fellow classmates about this Wikipedia, what’s so bad about it? I was then told that although it can be useful for finding information, any individual could edit it at anytime; thus making it not credible. When I found out about that I never really used Wikipedia since I felt it was pointless as the information I was reading could be false. Therefore before doing all the readings and research for this blog I felt that Wikipedia was NOT a reliable source by any stretch of the imagination.
I found when reading the article What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not?… by Cindy Royal and Deepina Kapila, I was able to grasp a better understanding of how Wikipedia operates based on the philosophy of the people who run the site. I would have to say that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with the philosophy, which they choose. For example, “the philosophy of the site is that with so many people looking at the content, in the long run accuracy will prevail” (Royal, Kapila, 2009). I would say that yes, eventually and at some point the information on Wikipedia will, or would have been correct; but at any point someone could change the correct information into false information. That is not my only concern with the Wikipedia philosophy. I can only speak for myself but; when I do a search on the Internet either for personal use or when writing a paper for school, I usually only look up the topic at hand for a brief period of time. If it is for my own common knowledge I would look something up probably only once, thus making me believe I would have the basic knowledge on the topic. If I were to go on the philosophy of Wikipedia I would have to constantly keep look back on the site to verify that the information I was given days, weeks, or months ago was accurate. And to make things more complicated if the information is changed; how would I know (someone with little knowledge on the subject at hand) which information was reliable and which one isn’t.
Another quote from Royal and Kapila states, “This open-source project operates under the assumption that more writers and editors are better than fewer and the community will develop and monitor content in a manner that is improved over that of traditional information publishing” (Royal, Kapila, 2009). In most cases 3 minds are usually better then 1; but that is also usually only the cases when the 3 minds have greater knowledge on the subject then the 1 mind. The idea that Wikipedia allows anyone to edit any page does not prove they have the knowledge to back up what they write about. I could easily change a Wikipedia page on heart conditions; but I have no knowledge on the subject, in fact I actually have a very poor scientific background. All I would have to do to make my writing seem reliable would be to use big, fancy terminology that “could” make sense. In the article Wikinomics and its Discontents: A Critical Analysis of Web 2.0 Business Manifestos written by Jose Van Dijck and David Nieborg they state, “the authors of Wikinomics and ‘We Think’ assume that all users who contribute content are (equally) creative and that their motivations for contributing articulate the same expressive desire” (Dijck, Nieborg, 2009). I can somewhat agree with the statement in that the people editing the Wiki posts must be creative; but I would completely disagree with the notion of their motives for contributing to the page. I’m sure there are many people that edit Wikipedia pages because they have the knowledge behind what they are posting; but I also do know of people who have edited Wikipedia pages to completely change the information into false information just to see how long it would take Wikipedia to notice the changes and correct them. Thus making the motivating completely different.
Although people can make these changes to Wiki pages, Wikipedia has implemented “penalties” to those who make false changes to pages. “The severest penalty is a ban (exile) for a period of time, or permanent banning” (Jensen, 2012). I personally do not believe that permanently banning or temporarily banning people from posting within Wikipedia will stop people from posting false information. Just by the readings done last week, people can easily change “identities” and use different accounts to access Wikipedia if they really wanted to. Although it seems a little out there to go to such great efforts, my point is that it is possible.
After doing my reading and research I feel that it has just reaffirmed the idea that I had about Wikipedia; which is that it is NOT reliable. “Wikipedia is specifically intended as a work of reference, whereas using a search engine is not. A search engine’s purpose is to identify various cites as opposed to finding immediate content” (Royal, Kapila, 2009). Wikipedia should only be used when trying to reaffirm information and knowledge which a person already posses, if even then.
Stay Happy, Stay Healthy, Until Next Time.
Van Dijk, J. & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media & Society. 11, 5. pp 855-874.
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.
Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182