Reflecting on Wikipedia: Summative Module 3

As many of us do, we use Wikipedia for its quick reference on information we know not of. We have been told through the education system not to rely on Wikipedia for anything academic related. As I have found out through my previous post “To Wiki or to not Wiki” that many users are the same in which the beginning stages of finding information for research assignments usually, begin with searching on Wikipedia.  This has been reinforced throughout school however; it seems to be changing as I have had one professor state to the class that Wikipedia was an acceptable site for sources to an assignment.

                 In comparison, Britannica may be used more widely than Wikipedia because it employs writers to create there entries. I received a comment in which Britannica is much more academically relevant however, statistics in Giles paper talk for themselves in which the results prove that the two encyclopedias are similar in mistakes regardless of the writer’s education level.  There’s so much discussion and editing that happens that mistakes will eventually be fixed. The one thing that I would like to see fixed is adding more references on Wikipedia I have seen pages where references are missing and Wikipedia lets it be known to users.  One commentator said the Wikipedia team should closely monitor information being posted, I think if they were to do that Wikipedia wouldn’t be free or it would be filled with advertisements everywhere. I think that if there were mistakes other users would be able to identify them and make the necessary changes in order to make it use able again.

                 Wikipedia does well for being a user created encyclopedia. It is a free source of information that people post information about topics they feel passionate about and users work well to collaborate and create something that everyone can access. Being able to create, post, edit and discuss articles on Wikipedia make it a community effort in order to perfect entries on topics users are knowledgeable on. This however can create bias on topics that are covered thoroughly compared to others that are not. This goes back to Dijk and Nieborg’s statistic of only 13% of internet users contribute to creating anything including videos, entries etc. This calls for participation among users to help establish Wikipedia and disable the bias that is there.  Users that have higher education and entries missing on Wikipedia correlate to information that is not on there. There was a statistic that Jensen found 27% of editors were under the age of 21 and 13% were still in high school (2012).

                 When I generally use Wikipedia, I as well begin with it when starting a research assignment. I have found that I can trust most of what I see on Wikipedia but like to make sure with other sources to ensure that the correct information is what I am reading. I feel anyone using any source besides Wikipedia should do this because it makes your research more credible regardless. Over all I am an advocate for Wikipedia and believe it is something that is a good source for information.

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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