Online Validity

     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 DocumentsFirst 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.

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4 thoughts on “Online Validity

  1. I think that encyclopedias are pretty obsolete, as a student I can not recall the last time I have used one or looked to one for an answer. It is just the problem that wikipedia can be edited more frequently and an encyclopedia is more concrete. I have been wondering what the solution would be to make wikipedia more widely accepted as a valid source.

  2. I really enjoyed that you decided to talk about crowdsourcing in your initial blog post because I think it is very important. I as well think that it is very nice of people to dedicate their time to writing on Wikipedia articles. However, as Jensen highlighed, it can be a problem because there is a chance of disruptive behaviour. I want to know whether you think this makes Wikipedia any less credible. Keep in mind that the comments do eventually get deleted. However, does anyone being able to edit a wiki article tarnish Wikipedia’s credibility? Why or why not?

  3. I agree with Jacqharp in terms of encyclopaedias becoming increasingly obsolete, and that digital versions of these encyclopaedias (Britannica) can be easily accessed online. Even search engines such as Google are replacing the needs for encyclopaedias by effectively and easily answering all types of questions on demand.

  4. I remember having to wait for the ‘yearbook’ that Encyclopaedia Britannica would print as an update to the previous version. The last paper copy of the yearbook I have is 1988. I still have my old set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, but the last time I used it as an academic reference was around 1991. For me the jury is still out on the validity of Wikipedia, but the constructivist nature of its contents leads me to believe that through all the revisions and additions, there will be some reasonable amount of validity to each entry.

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