Alex Halavais has an interesting post about ways we might think about certifying the value of Wikipedia, and I think he gets it right when he argues that just assigning academics with PhDs or “acknowledged experts” to do the work is probably not the right way to do it:
First, that some absolute fools manage to get the doctorate. Some of these fools graduate from the best schools out there, and some of the less able programs graduate more fools than scholars. So, the Ph.D. is certainly not a measure of insight. Indeed, how many business cards have you received with the “, Ph.D.” after the name and thought that this was a replacement for any obvious signs of intelligence.
Moreover, there are plenty of brilliant people who will never get a Ph.D. The degree has a lot to do with a conforming to a particular set of social and economic conditions, and it is not the best learning fit for very many people. It was good for me, I think (still working that one out), but it’s not for everybody. And I have flunked some truly brilliant people out of our own program because I knew that while they were smart and able, they were not going to be able to complete a degree.
I do think that the average Ph.D., and perhaps the average faculty member, is an expert in their field and able to teach about it. But just as with the Wikipedia, that expertise is only most of the time on most of their specialized topics. The difference is that there is social acceptance of this form of authority. And the question is how to lend that authority to Wikipedia.
It’s good stuff, and it takes Andy Carvin’s recent post on student examination of Wikipedia a step further. I find this whole discussion hugely interesting and valuable in thinking about so many things: writing, information literacy, research, open content…
Last night at a pre conference dinner, Alan asked all of those in attendance to introduce themselves and talk about what their fantasy for technology was. The answers were mostly about the desire to connect everyone to this resource that’s becoming such an important part of our lives. And after achieving that access, I said my fantasy might actually be coming true right before my eyes in Wikipedia. I am still so incredibly inspired by the idea that thousands of people from around the world can collaboratively contribute to the creation of such a vast and impressive resource all the while asking nothing in return and remaining anonymous. It feels like such a gift, and feels like such a shift in what is now possible.