The most infamous famous product of audience participation online is inarguably Wikipedia. We’ve all heard of it, we’ve all used it to look random things up, we’ve all been told off using it for academic purposes. Obviously this is because the freedom of anyone being able to edit articles, which many resort to in their free time out of boredom or other motives, makes information unreliable and compromises facts and narratives.
Nevertheless, many people have the Wikipedia app on their smartphone to look up trivia, or even gain a quick chronological overview of sociopolitical events. With physical encyclopedias having become nearly extinct to our generation, the organisation has achieved primacy in its cause. The diversity of articles is immense – there are more than five million english entries alone, and 291 different language editions of the site, which most certainly wouldn’t have been possible without the open contribution.
However, as of recent, editor Jimmy Wales has decided to steer away from quantity to ensure quality. Setting stricter guidelines which make it harder for people who are not yet recognised members of the community to make edits and protecting certain articles (such as the one about elephants) from non-official members entirely, might reduce the numbers of mishaps and pranks on the site. Yet making the community smaller and tighter will inevitably scare off new potential contributors, which the organisation will ultimately rely on in the future as information is stacking up every day.
Probably the most ironic thing about this decision, though, is the fact that this shrinking group of people being able to alter information which the general public takes at face value also enables them to twist and bend reality in favour of their agendas, in this case likely political or corporate after all. The democratic aspect, reflecting a true diverse society, is now bound to fade away. What do you think and prefer? Compromised information in the name of quality, or what might be a slightly chaotic yet steady growth of resources?