Wikipedia – a truly free encyclopedia?

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?mywikipedia.png

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3 Comments

  1. Wikipedia, the source of all information and knowledge, or at least that’s what I thought back in high school. As you and the others mentioned, it’s not a reliable and trustworthy source, however it is good enough for everyday research which is just like google-ing everything. (which leads you back to the wikipedia page) To answer your question I would say keep it as chaotic as could be, as long as there’s a steady stream of information coming in, without all this chaos do you think wikipedia would have as many entries as it does ?

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  2. Wikipedia is a great platform to discuss for this topic. I agree that it is unreliable for information but is still accurate enough to use as a first point of research. For example, if you just want to find out the population of a city or the filmography of an actor, Wikipedia is good enough for some quick, easy research. It is only when you want to do more academic or in-depth research, that caution should be taken. In answer to your question, I would rather a slightly chaotic yet steady growth of resources. If the information needed is for something slightly more important, it is good to cross-check information with a different source. Lots of Wikipedia articles have footnotes with references on them so that information can be assessed for accuracy.

    Besides, sometimes it is entertaining to have the public have access to editing articles. Remember when Cameron’s Wikipedia page got hacked on election day with a picture of Ed Miliband?

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  3. I totally agree with you! Wikipedia is not so trustworthy as many think it is, not at all.
    In my high school students were often asked to write a paper about a historical person or a famous touristic attraction for geography, but either way their main inspiration was Wikipedia. You even hear them saying they had similar sentences.
    Although, one can not take this site for granted, it is a good example of audience participation. Giving everyone the ability to add an information they think it is correct makes it unreliable. In my opinion, people should be allowed to add extra informations but there should be a single person, an editor, that has to research and either approve or disapprove what the audience is suggesting.

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