Monday, August 06, 2007

Will Wikipedia Last?

I was reading a blog post by George Siemens last week on his Connectivism blog titled Wikipedia and Google: Control vs. Emergence, and in light of the many, many conversations I've had this summer with Eighth Floor participants regarding the integrity of Wikipedia, I shared the blog post with several people in recent classes. One participant, Dana Sterling, wrote back. I love her passion, and you will too. I've been bugging her to start a blog, maybe if I share her comments here, she will be inspired!

The issue is kind of beside the one this writer is getting at. Academics worry that people are using Wikipedia and not understanding the quick and dirty, amateurish nature of the entries. This is where Britannica differs from Wikipedia. With ritannica, the entries are vetted and peer reviewed ahead of time. Like traditional academic journals and the journalism publications. Same editing and verification process, just taken to the web.

With Wikipedia, that process happens out in the open, in real time, in a kind of democratic way. That appeals to the grass roots activist, mistrustful of the mass media reader. I'm sure you have seen the student journalist criticism when Emory banned Wikipedia as an academic reference.

So I believe Britannica and Wikipedia are more different than he makes it seem. Though it is true that they are alike in that they are allowing the few to make information decisions for the many.

Google is indeed giving you everything, in one big shovel, and not sorting it at all. But he drastically underplays the impact of advertising and the desire to make money on Google searches. The hits are weighted by frequency and by sponsorship. They are not neutral either; far from it. And the China issue -- Google is willing to play ball with the Thought Police in order to make money. This deeply, deeply disturbs me. Yahoo is too.

Journalists and librarians believe in THE EDITOR! Someone has to make sense of the information, weigh it for authority and objectivity. No average consumer or student has the time to do that. It's an incredibly valuable function. It's not sinister. But the media have blown it and the people don't trust us. They think we are biased. We did it to ourselves by embracing opinion journalism instead of clinging to objectivity as a professional value.

See, this was a blog post. I gotta get one for my academic side!
Thanks for the link.


Dana spent the summer on the Eighth Floor in the Online Learning Series. I find many of her "takes" on things to be interesting, and as I said before, passionate. Dana spent 20 years as a newspaper journalist and TV reporter and now teaches journalism and writing at ORU and TCC.

I appreciate Dana's willingness to share her thoughts. If anyone else is interested in contributing to the Eighth Floor blog, just let me know!

Lee Anne

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


Thanks, Lee Anne! It is an issue I feel passionate about. And this fall I will indeed be cranking up my own blog as I discuss these issues with the newswriting students at ORU.

Thanks for all you guys do at the 8th Floor!