This weeks readings were quite interesting. Ever since High School, I remembered teachers always saying Wikipedia was not a reliable source and that students could not use it for schoolwork. This was something I brought with to me in University as well. I also had university professors suggest Wikipedia was not good, and that scholarly sources were best. I definitely agree with this. However, in my fourth year, I had a great political science professor (for Comparative Mass Media) whom actually said Wikipedia was reliable and that we were able to use it for our research papers. I than began to question Wikipedia, and after realized that it was quite reliable. I certainly find myself using Wikipedia as a good starting source for schoolwork as well as just personal use. After reading Royal and Kapila (2009) it was interesting to note that a recent study comparing the accuracy of science entries, it was concluded that Wikipedia’s level of accuracy is close to that of Encyclopedia Britannica (Giles, 2005) (Royal & Kapila, 2009,139).
I found the article “Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812” quite interesting and the debate over who won the war of 1812. Interestingly, the War of 1812, “makes everybody happy, because everybody interprets it differently” (Jensen, 2012, 1178). Furthermore, this is perhaps the issue with Wikipedia. The information posted on Wikipedia is based on who is writing it and can be biased. Some pages attract larger numbers of writers such as military and war, however there is a smaller base of support for other issues (Jensen, 2012, 1182). It reflects the viewpoints, interests, and prominences of the people who use it (Royal & Kapila, 2009,138). I think this is somewhat relevant to many aspects of life. In print literature there will be more books on a particularly more common issue or interest in society. Thus, why would it be different on the online community? New media allows “small communities” to form and spread news to other people who are interested (Brown and Duguid, 1996). However, “crowdsourcing” is also interesting when so many online, mainly anonymous people can edit one article on Wikipedia. I think it is great that people dedicate their time to writing on Wikipedia. However, as Jensen (2012) noted there is also the chance of people editing articles “just for fun”. With informal, uneducated comments, it does allow readers to question validity. However these comments are removed, so does this not make it resourceful and valued information?
Lastly, as Wikipedia continues to grow and become accessed as a news source for so many around the world, will print sources such as Encyclopedias “die”? In turn, I believe that print sources will still remain relevant even in an Internet era. There still remains significance of documents in everyday life. Indeed, older generations enjoy print more than younger ones. However, even young generations ought to use print documents and some enjoy reading newspapers. As Brown and Duguird (2006) note “People still read hardback books, even though they will cost one-third as much in paperback a year later. And people still go to watch movies in first-run houses, though they could rent the video at half the price the following year” . This is an important note. However, convenience has taken over in many aspects of life. Therefore, Wikipedia articles are much more convenient than running to the library to read scholarly books on the same topic. In the end, consumers of new media we ought to question reliability of everything we read online to be educated and informed.
Brown, J. S. & P. Duguid. (1996). The Social Life of Documents. First Monday. 1, 1.
Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.
Photo from: http://hariskr.com/should-wikipedia-be-a-valid-academic-source/