Friday, March 24, 2006

Wikipedia vs Encylopaedia vs Nature

I mentioned in passing yesterday that Nature had published a paper comparing the accuracy of Wikipedia to Enyclopaedia Britannica. This was a few months ago so I was surprised to see that today the BBC is reporting that EB is fighting (pdf) back by accusing Nature of doing a shoddy study. Nature then provides a response (pdf). This controversy transcends urban anthropology. Essentially we are watching 19th century encylopedism fight it out with 20th century science and 21st century socialware. Stay tuned to this one as it could have far-reaching consequences for how truth is arbited in our society.

2 Comments:

Blogger Jing Jing said...

This is a salient point that lends itself to the debate on credibility, authority and essentially, expert knowledge. In a 4th year Anthropology class, we were explicitly told that Wikipedia cannot be used as a reference in our papers because it is not an academic source. However, as "experts" lend their authority, supported by their institutionally recognized degrees and titles, these "21st century socialware" could gather the momentum to earn a place between the many existing Encyclopedias and scientific journals. Truths (capital T) are facts and opinions that have been validated and vouched - if a hegemonic shift away from expert knowledge to community knowledge takes place, we might be witness to the rise of truths (small t) or at least, an attempt at consensual Truth.

3/25/2006 3:29 PM  
Blogger Barker said...

There is much to support your case. Certain sections of wikipedia are now regularly reviewed by experts on a volunteer basis. While the practice is still fragmentary, one can imagine a different kind of 'peer review' that is not in the hands of centralized journal editorial boards and their chosen experts (as the system works now). It could be a more community based and transparent form of review. There are advantages to the present system as review is often double blind and the experts are usually highly respected in their field. But wikipedia allows a more accululative form of review, correction and updating.

3/28/2006 10:00 PM  

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