Wikipedia and Democracy • In his book ‘We-Think’Leadbeater comments that Wikipedia (amongst other We Media) “is at the heart of the reasons why the web should be good for democracy: by giving more people a voice and the ability to organise themselves; freedom, by giving more people the opportunity to be creative and equality, by allowing knowledge to be set free...” Charles Leadbeater ‘We Think’ (2010)
What is a Wiki? • ‘A wiki is a collaborative website which can be directly edited by anyone with access to it.’ (‘Wiki’ in Wikipedia) • The users are also the content-producers (i.e. prosumers)
How a Wikipedia article grows • First version of article is typically a short ‘stub’ (e.g., article on your school). • Changes include additions, changes, corrections, formatting, proofreading, vandalism and reversion • Arguments develop about what should be included, emphasis and structure, references. • There is often one topic of heated argument, leading to an uneasy consensus. • The best articles achieve ‘Good Article’ and then ‘Featured Article’ status, usually after intense work by a team of editors collaborating to make it fit Wikipedia standards.
Issues Raised We Media issues regarding quality, trust and authenticity can be applied to Wikipedia: • Quality - there is a lack of ‘academic rigour.’ Many of the entriesare about common knowledge, populist topics, or cover a topic in a shallow way • Authenticity– This knowledge is not from academics. It is often from an unverified source.
Truth, knowledge and Accuracy? • Stephen Fry and Lee Siegel have two very different views of Wikipedia. • Do you consider that you can trust Wikipedia to offer truth, knowledge and accuracy as opposed to an encyclopaedia produced by academic elites?
Issues Raised 2 • Trust - low barriers to entry.Anyone can write articles and edit Wikipedia. • This allows manipulation. Vandals and trolls get involved. • In other words, people may create pages with false facts or deliberately ‘vandalise’ pages. • Therefore should access be limited?
Inevitable Hierarchical Controls • What conclusions can you draw about Wikipedia? • Is it still a genuine example of We Media or have the necessities for “checks and balances” forced it to become yet another example of production by an elitist hierarchy?