Friday, July 11, 2008

Getting back to a great thought on Wikipedia

Here's an interesting observation about Wikipedia, sent by Paula: According to Games Radar
Wikipedia devotes more pages to video gmaes than it does to history. For example, " Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare beats "modern warfare"... 5,858 [pages] to 2,873." This is due, they say, to the fact that while
everybody has power [because] Information is interactive, knowledge is collaborative and history is open source. [Therefore] The nerdy kid next door has just as much influence as a high school teacher; the dorky dude at the comic book shop has just as much voice as a college professor.

Problem is, the nerds and dorks tend to have a lot more free time - and passion - than the teachers and professors. The end result? A hilariously skewed, terrifyingly twisted view of the world in which all the wrong things are deemed "important" and worthy of serious academic discussion.

The conclusion from this might be that this is one more reason why college teachers are right to ban the use of Wikipedia. However I would argue first that quantity of pages does not mean quality of information. Also, this might be one more tool we can use when teaching students what Wikipedia is. Consider that the TV news devotes lots of time to Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears - more time than they do to more substantive issues - but no one seriously suggests that therefore we should not use TV news - well, this is why PBS is more reliable. I have yet to see Paris Hilton featured on PBS.

Somewhere recently I read about an alleged attempt by one or more groups in the Middle East to make a concerted effort to become 'administrators" on Wikipedia in order to lobby for information and entries slanted to their perspective. If I can find this again, I will add it.

Meanwhile, the WPA conference in Denver is going very well, with lots of useful and interesting information. Outside right now thunder over the Rockies, though I haven't yet noticed any lightning (maybe the ambient street lights outside the hotel are obscuring the flashes) and I haven't seen any rain (which Colorado desperately needs).



Blogger amd said...

I saw that article too and I just couldn't take it seriously for a couple of reasons - I think the authors need to learn something about building an argument from you! First, I think they're actually counting *words* not pages. And as someone who can write a LOT of words with very little effort or thought I've got to say I'm not finding their longer=better analysis very convincing. I mean, seriously, I have to spend way more time editing stuff down to make it good.

But it was really this line that made me stop reading -- "Problem is, the nerds and dorks tend to have a lot more free time - and passion - than the teachers and professors"

Free time, maybe. But I'm sorry, passion? That is such a fundamental and offensive misunderstanding of what professors are like that I can't even articulate it. They seriously think people spend a million years in school - make the choice to do research for a living because they have less passion about a topic or discipline than a gamer has about Call of Duty. I call nonsense :-)

11:03 PM  
Blogger Sara Jameson said...

You're right of course about the passion. I got stuck on the quantity notion at first. Sure, gamers are obsessed with their work, but so are professors - at least many that I know in English and Information Literacy - certainly you and I are! - The gamers may have more time, though. And they may want to make their major arguments on Wikipedia whereas we make our arguments in journals and presentations.

But this article does lead me to wonder whether indeed we need to post more of our work on Wikipedia for that audience. How often have you added to the Wikipedia page on Info Literacy? I haven't. Maybe we should?

8:20 AM  

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