To Wiki or to not Wiki…

I was always told when doing homework assignments that Wikipedia was an unreliable source for data or reference for any work being done for school. I found that I usually researched with Wikipedia first to get a general sense of the topic and then focus my research towards scholarly articles after a general idea formed of the topic.  Many professors condemn Wikipedia because the posts were user generated allowing anyone the power to modify the information. That is one of the biggest problems that Wikipedia as an encyclopedia faces in which allows people to criticize its credibility. This is also something that has been reinstated in some of the articles (Giles; Dijk & Nieborg) however the big question now is can we trust the website and communities that build upon it.

 Interesting points came across from Dijk and Nieborg that participation amongst users are the ones that constitute pages such as Wikipedia, Youtube etc. However there are several points they find that argue that mass collaboration is generally out of interest of all users desire to contribute content either out of need to communicate or express oneself creatively. They reveal that “Of those people who use the internet regularly, only 13 percent are actual creators” (861, Dijiek). Not all users on the internet are of the same highly-educated group that contribute intellectual content for others to benefit from, it’s more of them that watch and download content by others (Dijek). This is interesting as companies are trying to insincerely create knowledge through social websites by creating users of social media equivalently to consumers of knowledge through peer to peer notions. This is applies to social sites such as Wikipedia or ones with focused forums (example: game modifications) in which we as users feel the obligation to communicate knowledge to one another because we join these communities similar to our interest. This however is not a bad thing because we receive knowledge free from the usually expensive costs of reading high educated people with the same information as someone without a degree.

 In this article by Royal and Kiplan they explain that Wikipedia is biased because of its policy of allowing any user to put information on the website this is what I believe in as well. However they conduct a study in which they compare it to the Britannica Encyclopedia that had 132 errors in comparison to Wikipedia that had 162 (Giles; Royal & Kiplan). The two encyclopaedias are generally ranging in the same area amongst accuracy. The only problem amongst the encyclopedia was that information amongst topics such as popular culture has vast amount of information in comparison to Belgium politics. This just shows that Wikipedia has references to many articles of varieties however more information may be needed for topics that require. As Royal and Kiplan state “Wikipedia did well on coverage, even in its weakest areas. The areas of law and medicine were particularly lacking, explained by the presence of licensed experts in these fields” (140). This was also true in another articles by Giles in which research was done on two scientific disciplines between the two encyclopaedias. Scientists in that field conducted a blind test in which they peer reviewed the articles and found that both encyclopaedias had that same number of misinterpretations four from each (900, Giles).

 Overall, I find that I might research with Wikipedia more however I feel that professors and teachers will not allow it. It’s a matter of showing them the research to enlighten them on the knowledge that Wikipedia offers to the community for no fee. It will remain one of the first places I will look for when I gather information on any research topic however I will always verify with the sources that is usually posted below on the Wikipedia page in order to ensure that information is correct.

 References:

Van Dijk, J. & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media & Society. 11, 5. pp 855-874.

Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.

Giles. J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to headNature. 438, pp 900-901

Image Reference: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/observer/2011/february-11/harnessing-the-power-of-wikipedia-for-scientific-psychology-a-call-to-action.html

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4 thoughts on “To Wiki or to not Wiki…

  1. It does not totally surprise me that Wikipedia is not full of errors, because so many people access the entries, someone is bound to notice when information is slightly inaccurate or totally incorrect. I can understand why teachers and professors don’t want Wikipedia used as reference, because it is not a “scholarly source”, and you can never be sure what credibility the person has who edited an entry. However, as you mentioned, it was not far off from Encyclopedia Britannica in terms of errors, and in the fast paced world we live in, with information changing hourly, it is great that there is such a vast semi-reliable, free source of information. Personally, I will continue to use Wikipedia to look up general information, and as a starting point for serious research, but until the site can ensure that the entries are at least reviewed by a professional in that field I won’t be using it as a reference for school.

  2. I use Wikipedia for the same reason you do; as a starting point for research. I do think that receiving information (regardless of the cost) from a highly educated individual is worth it. If people begin to regard information from an academic as equal to information from someone with no education then you have to question what getting a degree is really worth. I think that given the nature of Wikipedia as a site that allows anyone to post and edit, people will generally post and edit articles in areas that are of interest to them thus creating bias and topics that are not covered as thoroughly as others. Since you are an advocate of Wikipedia I am pleased that you check information with other sources. I think that professors do not accept Wikipedia as a valid source for good reasons and that they advise students in this direction in order to help us.

  3. I do like the point you mentioned, where information from Wikipedia is free because the people writing on it are not only anonymous and doing it not for money, but also don’t usually have ellaborate degrees like those who charge rediculous amouts of money for text books. I like that Wikipedia is a place for information that all can contribute to, however I think there are still some bugs to work out. For example, personally I think that before edits are added to an article, Wikipedia should review the edits and ensure that they are backed up by sources, and that the sources are ligitimate. I think this process would better ensure that the content added to Wikipedia is more accurate. However, I believe that even if WIkipeida implements such a procedure, it will still not be allowed in the classroom.

  4. Like you, and many others in our blog group, I also used Wikipedia for general inquiries and never for research or anything academic related. I like that you noted Dijk and Nieborg’s statistic that only 13 percent of users on the Internet are actual creators. I think this calls for more participation from users such as ourselves, who have our own personal knowledge through education and personal experience. If we were to all come together and add to social documents, such as Wikipedia, we would have knowledge that is applicable to the needs of the users and knowledge that is from a general source coming together for the likes of the topic. I do see how using something such as Britanica would seem more academically-relevant, however, the statistics in Giles article speaks for itself: the errors in accuracy between Britanica and Wikipedia are close to the same. This goes to show that through the monitoring of information by the Wikipedia team, users are able to provide accurate and desirable information, relevant to their own needs and the needs of others.

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