Thursday, 10 April 2008

Interesting Video on Wikipedia

Further to this post, I've just been watching a 48 minutes video on Wikipedia and its effect on society:

Its very interesting in that a number of very strong opinions are asserted by people such as Andrew Keen (author of the 'Cult of the amateur'), Charles Leadbeater (author of 'We Think') and Larry Sanger (co-founder of Wikipedia). Of course it also includes Jimmy Wales. How accurate his Wikipedia profile is, god only knows....

What the video and make your own mind, but I have several comments. At one point a question is put to Jimmy Wales about the difference in knowledge between a 17 year old and a professor with 40 odd years of subject knowledge. Jimmy's response is something along the lines of 'very often the 17 old will know more'. Erm, lets examine that statement - say Jimmy needs an operation to save his life. Would he prefer the 17 year old to operate on him or the professor with 40 years knowledge in the area. The answer to the question is pretty obvious.

I haven't had time to examine Andrew Keens argument in any detail, but needless to say he is on the other side of the argument to Jimmy Wales and Charles Leadbeather. Andrew Keen's argument if I understand it correctly is that truth is becoming fragmented, and the idea of subject knowledge and expertise is being diminished by Web 2.0. I agree to some extent, expertise is always going to be needed (good example above), but I don't buy it whole. Experts can publish on Web 2.0. It seems to me that 'truth' is being confused with 'facts' here - perhaps I'll return to this later.

With regard to Wikipedia and its use, a statement is made in the video (I can't remember who unfortunately) that Wikipedia is good to use as a first source of information, but you need to refer to other sources to check the reliability of the information you have found. I agree strongly with this, it's what I recommend to my students.

Charles Leadbeather makes an interesting comment on the potential of Web 2.0 to increase democracy, and points to the problems authoritarian regimes are having with this technology. I'd like to think so, but the jury's out just now.

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