why wikipedia is wicked

Given that criticism is always easier than praise (is the second law of thermodynamics? I’m not too sure) it is inevitable that lots of people only ever see the problems with Wikipedia.. That because anyone can edit anything then it isn’t definitive, it’s not composed by experts, anyone can maliciously or through stupidity introduce errors, it’s scholarship is shallow.

But as long as you are aware of all that (and even if you are not) it’s value as a resource is huge and while it may be shallow it is extremely wide.

To give you just one example. I have been writing an essay that led me to need about a paragraph on each of Aristotle, Locke, Hume, Kant and Wittgenstein. Not an easy prospect at the best of times but I can’t imagine how i’d have coped before Wiki. Sure they don’t go into profound depth on any of these but they go far deeper than I’d ever need. What’s more the information available on Wikipedia is more clearly laid out than any encyclopedia could achieve. They show the structure of the information. Or rather by providing the structure that they do, it makes the information much more readily cross-referenced and compared. The chronology is there, and links to show who influenced who, whilst for every book or idea mentioned, even in passing, there is more often than not a link that expands upon it. In an equally clear style. And that’s not just heady philosophy but things which are more down to earth.

Like Duck Duck Goose.

It’s a child’s game, mentioned in passing during the discussion of Wittgenstein’s pondering over the meaning of words. Yet when one clicks the link not only do you get an explanation of the game. But some crazy fool has even bothered to make an animation that helps explain it.

I remember as a child, I enjoyed the game of browsing Britannica.. Leaping from page to page, volume to volume to try to learn the context for whatever you had originally looked up.. almost impossible but informative along the way but by comparison wandering through wikipedia is like World of Warcraft compared to Noughts and Crosses.

About caspar

Caspar is just one monkey among billions. Battering his keyboard without expectations even of peanuts, let alone of aping the Immortal Bard. By day he is an infantologist at Birkbeck Babylab, by night he runs BabyLaughter.net
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1 Response to why wikipedia is wicked

  1. Entropic Catalyst says:

    “is the second law of thermodynamics? I’m not too sure”
    You wound me! Surely you haven’t forgotten entropy? The inevitable tendency in all systems to deteriorate?

    I often see Wikipedia criticized over the fact that it allows anyone with net access the ability to edit it, but that’s exactly what I like about it. Sure, it often contains inaccurate information, but so does every other encyclopedia ever written. The only difference is that the public is aware of Wikipedia’s fallibility, and thus less likely to take anything they read at face value. In the past, encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference books were considered sacred, because surely the divine “experts” who wrote them couldn’t be biased or mistaken. Now people know the truth: We are all the experts. Consensus is truth, and it is malleable.

    Now to go back to staring at that animated Duck Duck Goose game. I expect the other four players to become involved any moment now…

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