Thursday, July 05, 2007

More on Wikipedia

It has taken me awhile, but I finally read last Sunday's New York Times Magazine section yesterday. One interesting article concerned Wikipedia, the open-access encyclopedia. According to the article, Wikipedia is rapidly becoming a "leading source of daily journalism." It has even "all but strangled one of its sister projects, the three-year-old Wikinews." One of the examples author Jonathan Dee used was the article about the Fort Dix Terror Plot. After the plot was disclosed on May 8, a stub of an article was created on Wikipedia at about 7:00 A.M. Over the next few hours, a Wikipedia contributor "expanded and corrected this stub 59 times, ultimately shaping it into a respectable, balanced and even footnoted 50-line account of that day's major development in the war on terror." This contributor is only sixteen years old!

The aspect of the Times article that I found most interesting was how Wikipedia is changing our idea of what an encyclopedia is. Traditionally, an "encyclopedia was synonymous with a fixed, archival idea about the retrievability of information from the past. But Wikipedia's notion of the past has enlarged to include things that haven't even stopped happening yet. Increasingly, it has become a go-to source not just for reference material but for real-time breaking news--to the point where, following the mass murder at Virginia Tech, one newspaper in Virginia praised Wikipedia as a crucial source of detailed information." It was also interesting to read mini-profiles of some of the individuals who dedicate hours of their own time to creating and editing articles on Wikipedia. One is going to be starting law school at American University in the fall.

1 comment:

Betsy McKenzie said...

Marie, it's fascinating to watch not only the development of Wikipedia, but also people's responses. My own feelings have swung back and forth on this. I love the community effort, the sharing and giving behind such social networking on the Web. I also watch in dismay as Wikipedia suffers from attacks of vandalsm and flame wars. And I worry about the lack of understanding that many students display towards authority, citations and sources. But I do think the genie is out of the bottle -- all we can do is try to guide our users. What an interesting article you bring up! Thanks!