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X-Posted from H-NET List for African History and Culture <H-AFRICA@H-NET.MSU.EDU> From: Patrick Wurster <wurster@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> --------- QUERY Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2006 From: Don Osborn firstname.lastname@example.org Since the subject of Wikipedia has come up on this list before, and just now again in the "Boma" thread, I thought I would mention that the 2nd annual "Wikimania" conference on Wikipedia and associated online media will begin in Cambridge, Mass. tomorrow. See http://wikimania2006.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page I notice that Martin Benjamin, who just commented on approaches to Wikipedia in the "Boma" discussion, will present there, and that there will be several other university faculty presenting as well. Are other any other Africanists attending? (Unfortunately I will not be.) ----- REPLY 1 Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 03:46:11 -0400 From: Patrick Wurster <wurster@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2006 From: Louise Rolingher email@example.com Thank you Martin, I agree that if we have knowledge of a subject, we should contribute to an open forum like Wikipedia. In addition to being alerted to changes as they occur (the 'watchlist'function), you can compare the various edits with each other or with the original entry by clicking on the 'history'tab. It makes for an interesting examination of knowledge creation. ----- REPLY 2 Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 03:46:17 -0400 From: Patrick Wurster <wurster@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> Date: Thu, 3 Aug 2006 From: Patrick F.A. Wurster firstname.lastname@example.org Editor's note: I allowed myself to use Don Osborn's well formulated thread: so Thank You Don! As a debate on Wikipedia has come up as well on this list, I might inform you that this happens on other lists as well. An internal debate amongst staff and editors of H-Net is equally vivid and may be summarised as follows. On the one side Wikipedia may be considered as an unreliable source for academic texts, thus problematic even when used by students in their papers. On the other side, it is widely acknowledged as an extremely large and, even if for some flaws, generally correct encyclopaedia which has the distinctive advantage of extreme speed in error correction (somehow, if I understood correctly, Martin's argument). While this part of the debate generally concentrated on the (dis-)advantages of Wikipedia as an encyclopaedia in comparison e.g. with the Encyclopaedia Britannica, some contributions debated its peculiarities in comparison to H-Net and scholarly publications in general. The picture is much less clear in this regard. Very broadly speaking the position I remembered best (since it convinced me most) is to make a difference between academic debate on the one side and encyclopaedia on the other, placing Wikipedia on the encyclopaedia-side and H-Net on the Academia-side. I would furthermore add that the core element of both may be very different: On the encyclopaedia-side, the core element may be "facts", which, if false, or revealed false, may have to be corrected. On the Academia-side, the core element may be "arguments", inserted within a reasoning (a chain of arguments), thus theoretically framed. They may only be remotely irritated by more or less false (or new) facts and put into question, i.e. falsified, when the reasoning is revealed to be flawed, be it either within its frame of reference or because the frame of reference itself does not make sense any more. Since students often seem to have been trained in school (at least in Germany) in fact-finding and -presenting, this makes for the attractiveness of Wikipedia to them and the hesitations one would have as an academic teacher... Whose aim would rather be to teach how to insert facts into a rationale, an intricate reasoning which gives arguments for a position. Nevertheless I am not sure whether this description of Wikipedia is accurate, is it? ----- REPLY 3 Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 18:27:45 -0400 From: Patrick Wurster <wurster@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 From: Richard Bradshaw email@example.com I find it amusing that this discussion about Wikipedia came up in the context of a debate about the accuracy and analysis of newspaper coverage of the elections in Central Africa. Wikipedia articles, like newspaper articles and ALL sources, need to be examined with a critical eye, but unlike even the best and most reliable printed sources, anyone who feels that a Wikipedia article is not accurate has the opportunity to change it. I would not go so far as to argue that we have an obligation to improve and update Wikipedia articles, since what people feel obliged to do is a personal matter that depends on their priorities, etc., but correcting and improving Wikipedia articles offers us a rare opportunity to share our "knowledge" and "expertise" with people all over the world who are far more likely to consult Wikipedia articles than printed encyclopedia articles of any kind. Furthermore, I am told that the content of Wikipedia articles is automatically and periodically 'syndicated' throughout thousands of other internet sources whose updates consist of importing the content of Wikipedia articles since it is 'free' information. So if any of us has an interest in sharing "better" information about Africa - or about any topic - and in preventing the regular and automatic 'syndication' of inaccurate or objectionable information throughout the information universe - than we should consider doing our little bit to improve and update Wikipedia articles. But what we contribute will not of course constitute 'realiable' sources but rather sources which will hopefully be questioned and improved in turn. There is no such thing as a source which is so 'reliable' that it is not in need of ever-evolving, critical examination and improvement, is there? May those of us who are concerned about the 'unreliability' of Wikipedia sources put our own 'stamp' on these articles, but without the hubris of believing that we transform them into 'reliable' sources. ----- REPLY 4 Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 18:27:50 -0400 -From: Patrick Wurster <wurster@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 From: Ann McDougall, University of Alberta firstname.lastname@example.org I'm rather pleased to see this discussion taking place here. Some time ago John Thornton wrote a substantial piece on Wikipedia, having just himself edited a piece on 'Kongo' (if I remember correctly). It was in invitation to us, as Africanists to use this very public, very accessible venue to do what we always complain is not being done -- having some of our 'expertise' out there where it will be listened to and used, in a format in which it can be understood by non-academics and non-africanists. I don't remember, however, that much of a discussion ensued at the time. Pity. My contribution comes from a student with whom I was discussing Wikipedia -- he passed along this article from the New Yorker which talks about the history of the project (and Encyclopaedia in general, especially Britannica), its founders and how it functions internally (the editing process, the 'talk' pages etc). And yes, the problems they encounter daily -- which ultimately speak to the concerns we all share. http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060731fa_fact ------- REPLY 5 Date: Sun, 6 Aug 2006 04:46:04 -0400 From: Patrick Wurster <wurster@MAIL.H-NET.MSU.EDU> Date: Sat, 05 Aug 2006 From: Jonathan T. Reynolds email@example.com The newest edition of _The Atlantic_ has an article on Wikipedia (and Nupedia) entitled "The Hive." It is available on line at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200609/wikipedia .