Friday, March 28, 2008

Wikipedia: Academic Source or Social Software? Response to Readings is probably one of the internet’s most informing sites in my personal opinion. Want to learn more about that new band you started downloading on your limewire? Perhaps they’re from the 80’s and don’t have a website. Or perhaps they’re website is useless and doesn’t feature information on how the band met, where they’re from. Maybe you want to learn about the myth of Atlantis. Just heard the name of a writer dropped in class and you’re wondering exactly what he/she has to offer? would be the website to check.

In their essay, ‘Oppostitional Politics and the Internet: A Critical/Reconstructive Approach’, Kahn and Kellner drop the wiki bomb by stating, “Beginning on January 15, 2001, the Wikipedia has quickly grown to include approximately 162,000 always-evolving articles in English (with over 138,000 in other languages) and the database grows with each passing day. With over 5,000 vigilant contributors worldwide creating, updating, and deleting information in the archive daily, the charge against wikis is that such unmoderated and asynchronous archives must descend into chaos and not information. However, as required by the growth of the project, so-called Wikipedians have gathered together and developed their own loose norms regarding what constitutes helpful and contributive actions on the site. Disagreements, which do occur, are settled online by Wikipedians as a whole in what resembles a form of virtualized Athenian democracy wherein all contributors have both a voice and vote.” (Kahn and Kellner)

As it is made clear, this is a highly valuable source of information. This is why I am somewhat shocked that the University has a policy (I’m unsure which departments it applies to) that this is not a reputable academic source. Who is to say that academics aren’t contributing to this online encyclopedia? With over 162,000 (ever growing) articles published and available to be cited, there is bound to be an academic in the mix. I believe the problem with this being used as an academic source may lie in misinformation. The fact that there are disagreements over information posted leads to it not being allowed for citation.However, consider the fact that information is always changing. To use a work of literature as an example, just imagine a user posts that (hypothetically) that Jean Paul Sartre’s work was influenced by Nietzsche. Elsewhere (in an academic journal we as students are allowed to cite) it may state this as well. But in a newer work (another academic journal for instance) it states he was influenced by Aristotle. Who’s to say both aren’t correct? Then wikipedia working with its ‘virtualized Athenian democracy’ works this out. My point here is that nobody is actually in the wrong here, both are right, or both are wrong. Yet, we are allowed to cite both these other sources but not wikipedia? That seems unrealistic to me as a student.

The academic problem with wikipedia seems to lie in the fact that it is more of a social source of information as Kahn and Kellner state, “Blogs and wikis are both emerging examples of the trend in Internet development towards “social software” that networks people around similar interests or other semantic connections.” (Kahn and Kellner)

Even in this academic article that seems very pro-wiki, the fact that blogs and wikis are called ‘social software’ is what works against wikipedia as a valuable source of information. Facebook and msn are also social softwares, and of course, universities aren’t going to allow you to cite wall posts and instant messages as reputable academic sources, no matter what their content. In conclusion, I find it unnerving that we as students cannot use this website as a source to cite from in coursework; however the website works against itself in defense of my argument. I would be all for petitioning to have added as an academic source, but due to the fact that it is grouped in the same software category as facebook, msn, ICQ, etc. it seems to have brought about its own downfall.

Works Cited

Kahn, Richard and Kellner, Douglas M. "Oppostitional Politics and the Internet: A Critical/Reconstructive Approach".

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