One more quick wiki post before moving on to something else. Danah Boyd has what I think is the most articulate defense of Wikipedia yet. Here’s a snip:
I will be truly sad if academics don’t support the project, don’t contribute knowledge. I will be outraged if academics continue to talk about having Wikipedia eliminated as a tool for information dispersal. Sure, students shouldn’t be citing from Wikipedia instead of the primary texts they were supposed to have read. But Wikipedia is a stunning supplement to most texts and often provides pointers to other relevant material that one didn’t know existed. We should be teaching our students how to interpret the materials they get on the web, not banning them from it. We should be correcting inaccuracies that we find rather than protesting the system. We have the knowledge to be able to do this, but all too often, we’re acting like elitist children. In this way, i believe academics are more likely to lose credibility than Wikipedia.
As always, read the whole thing.
Bill Walle says
Danah’s assessment of the need for Wikipedia is right on. Hardcopy books are not meta-tagged (yet). Until Guttenberg or Google does bring all books online or tag them in a meaningful and useful way, we’ll continue to have discontinuity in referencing other “primary” information. Wikipedia bridges the discontinuity in a very powerful, socially-joined way. Does this mean original content in Wikipedia isn’t “primary”?
I’m an MIT student. I use Wikipedia quite a bit. I have found it very useful for providing an overview and history of many academic topics. I have found it very useful for academic jargon: postmodernism, participatory action research, foundationalism/postfoundatinalism, positivism/postpositivism. Sometimes I am confronted wtih a paragraph that contains not just one such term, but twenty or thirty!
I also use biographies of authors to give me an overview of their thinking and influence.
I have found found many article links very useful in linking me back to texts that I can cite, however.
But I haven’t cited it in a paper yet! I look for original, non-anonymous peer-reviewed documents to cite…