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Conceptions and Misconceptions Academics Hold About Wikipedia R. Stuart Geiger Georgetown University Communication, Culture, and Technology Program

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Presentation on theme: "Conceptions and Misconceptions Academics Hold About Wikipedia R. Stuart Geiger Georgetown University Communication, Culture, and Technology Program"— Presentation transcript:

1 Conceptions and Misconceptions Academics Hold About Wikipedia R. Stuart Geiger Georgetown University Communication, Culture, and Technology Program Wikimania 2008 at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt 19 July 2008 Dual-licensed under the GFDL 2.0 or later and the Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 or later. If you find anything inaccurate or wish to collaborate or contribute, send me an e-mail.

2 Ethnographic Method Based on coming to understand a community: – Personal interviews, discussions, conversations Undirected – let them choose specific topics Confidentiality and respect make it problematic – Should not use private discussions for research w/out consent – Analysis of public discussions, essays, and papers Academic newspapers – The Chronicle, Inside Higher Ed – Comments on Internet-based publications Academic listservs, mailing lists, and discussion forums Academic bloggers Academic journals – Peer-reviewed and non-peer reviewed

3 Ethnographic Method Not about surveys, statistics, and populations – Impossible to interview everyone – Difficult to interview randomly Accept biases present in research – Academics I personally know are: More accepting and enthusiastic about technology More “postmodern,” more willing to question academia and dominant, traditional models of education – Academics in general are: Not as willing to be the subject of research Incredibly diverse and have many different motivations – Selected academic sources are mainly: Internet-based

4 Initial Thoughts Much dislike of Wikipedia in academia – Old, elitist, computer-illiterate academics – Wiki model a threat to academic publishing Distrust of Wikipedia based on ignorance: – Permanent link and version history – Free in terms of cost and copyright – Editorial standards (NPOV, Verifiability) – Dependence on academic sources and citations If only they knew….

5 Where are the angry academics? Many prominent critics of Wikipedia: – Andrew Keen (author of Cult of the Amateur) – Daniel Brandt (runs Wikipedia Watch) – Larry Sanger (founded Citizendium) – Robert McHenry (former editor of Britannica) – Dale Holberg (current editor of Britannica) – Andrew Orlowski (columnist for The Register) – John Siegenthaler, Jr. (former editor of the USA Today) But few of the vocal, prominent are academics – Some have advanced degrees, but few are faculty or currently enrolled graduate students active in academia.

6 The “Ban” of Wikipedia by Middlebury University’s History Department Many students in a class by Professor Neil Waters incorrectly answered the same question on an exam because they studied Wikipedia instead of course materials. Waters complained, and his department held a meeting where they decided by consensus to “ban” Wikipedia. The story in the media: a great controversy erupted between pro-Wikipedia and anti- Wikipedia academics and students. – Many critics of the decision on academic news sites (mainly Chronicle and IHE) and blogs argued that Wikipedia should not be cited, but is a good resource.

7 The “Ban” of Wikipedia by Middlebury University’s History Department The actual decree: – Began by acknowledging that Wikipedia is extremely convenient and useful for academic research in certain situations. – Professors should not give students credit if they answer a question on an exam wrong because they studied an incorrect Wikipedia article – Professors should not accept Wikipedia as a reliable, authoritative source in research papers. Does not ban or discourage use of Wikipedia

8 The “Ban” of Wikipedia by Middlebury University’s History Department From Don Wyatt, chair of the department: – It was a compromise from professors who wanted to ban Wikipedia entirely from college campuses. – He claimed that the department is on record as supporting it as “entry point or as a way of finding other, more appropriate sources for citation.” – Chronicle of Higher Education: Yet even from Neil Waters: – “any general tertiary source, including the Encyclopaedia Britannica” can never be made into “a truly authoritative source, suitable for citation.” – “Wikipedia is a fine place to search for a paper topic or begin the research process…” – Waters, Neil L., “Why you can't cite Wikipedia in my class.” Commun. ACM 50, no. 9 (2007): 15-17.

9 The Wikipedian Consensus Yet most Wikipedians agree with this – (en) Wikipedia: Academic use 1 : “Remember that any encyclopedia is a starting point for research, not an ending point.” “While reading Wikipedia articles for research, remember to consider the information carefully, and never treat what is on Wikipedia as wholesale truth.” – (en) Wikipedia: Verifiability 2 : “personal websites, open wikis, blogs, forum postings, and similar sources are largely not acceptable” as reliable sources for verifying content in Wikipedia articles.wikisblogs – Jimbo Wales has spoken out against citing Wikipedia [1] [2]

10 The Academic Consensus Most “anti-Wikipedia” academics agree in part: – Wikipedia is not to be cited authoritatively It is an encyclopedia, and students should use primary and secondary sources. Not a critique of the wiki model. However: anyone can edit it, and that is troubling for anything claiming to be authoritative source. – Possibly useful for students Students must be taught information/media literacy Better than pulling from the Internet in general – Personally, indifference more prominent than disgust Encyclopedias in general are usually not for academics Editing Wikipedia is just not worth their time – too busy Wikipedia is good for certain things, like popular culture

11 Assigning Article Vandalism Some lecturers and professors have required their students to vandalize Wikipedia for class See the talk page for Wikipedia:School and university projects – Tim Pearce at Northern Illinois University – Alex Duensing at the University of South Florida – Other professors brag about vandalizing Wikipedia to prove that Wikipedia is not entirely accurate all of the time

12 Assigning Article Creation Yet many more have integrated Wikipedia into their classroom (see Wikipedia:SUP) – Bryan Pfaffenberger at the University of Virginia – Elizabeth Colantoni at Oberlin College – Cory Doctrow at University of Southern California – Nicola Pratt at the University of East Anglia – Matt Barton at St. Cloud State University – Andrew Collins at University of New South Wales – Andrew Lih at the University of Hong Kong

13 Assigning Article Creation: Short List University of Pittsburgh sociology (summer 2008) New Jersey Institute of Technology (Fall 2007-present) Amherst College (Spring 2008) American University (Spring 2008) Columbus State University (Spring 2008) University of Hong Kong (Spring 2008) Gloucester County College, Library & Communications (Spring 2008) New Bulgarian University, History of Culture (Fall 2007/Spring 2008) ITESM Campus Toluca - Advanced English (Ongoing) Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal (Spring 2008) University of Mary Washington, Fredericksburg, Virginia (Spring 2008) University of Karlsruhe, Institute for Geography Spring 2008) Mercyhurst College Institute for Intelligence Studies (Spring 2008) Savannah College of Art and Design (Spring 2008) (Ongoing) Oakland University Department of Art & Art History (Fall 2008) Leeward Community College Upward Bound (summer 2008) Texas A&M University (Spring 2008) University of Pittsburgh (Spring 2008) University of British Columbia (Spring 2008) Truman State University (Fall 2007)

14 Assigning Article Creation: Short List Barcelona University and Washington University in St. Louis (Fall 2007) University of Washington (Fall 2007) Ohio University (2007) University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia The College of Idaho (Winter Session 2008) University of Toronto (Winter 2008) University of California, Davis (Fall 2007) New Jersey Institute of Technology (Fall 2007) University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky Fall of 2007 The College of Idaho (Fall 2007) University of Pittsburgh (Fall 2007) Oberlin College (Spring 2007) Northwestern University (Spring 2007) University of East Anglia (Spring 2007) Brandeis University [[5]](Spring 2007) University of Hong Kong (Spring 2007) Cory Doctorow's USC COMM499 Class (2007) Amherst College (Spring 2007) Wayne State University (Winter 2007) University of Minnesota (Spring 2007)

15 Assigning Article Creation: Short List MIT Music and Theater Arts (Fall 2006) University of Iowa (2006) University of Leiden, The Netherlands (2006) Penn State University (2006) Cornell University (Fall 2006) University of Art and Design Helsinki - Media Lab Helsinki (Fall 2006) Yale University (Fall 2006) Indiana University (Fall 2005-Summer 2006) University of Pittsburgh (Summer 2006) St. Cloud State University (Spring 2006) University of Hong Kong (Spring 2006) University of Tartu, Estonia (Spring 2006) University of Maryland (Spring 2006) Harvard Extension School (Spring 2006) University of California, Irvine (Winter 2006) Dartmouth et al (2005) Oregon State University (2005)

16 Assigning Article Creation: Short List Chilwell School (Autumn 2006) University of Hong Kong (Fall 2005) Georgia Institute of Technology (Fall 2005) Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (Fall 2005) University of Virginia (Fall 2005) University of Vienna (2002, 2005) University of Washington (Seattle, Spring 2005) University of Georgia / Memento (Fall 2005) University of Tokyo (Japan, 2004-2005) Columbia University School of the Arts (New York City, Fall 2004) Bad Mergentheim Business School (Spring 2004) Norwegian School of Management (Norway, spring 2004, continuing) University of Hong Kong (2003 - 2004) University Saarland (Germany, 2003-2004) Portland State University (Spring 2003)

17 Conceptions of pro-Wikipedia Academics Academics have expressed an interest or wrote papers linking Wikipedia or the “wiki model” to various theoretical or ideological movements: – Open Educational Resources (countless) – Social Constructivism (Barry McMullin, Alex Duensing) – Radical Democracy (Edo Navot) – Critical Theory (A. Michael Froomkin) – Chaos Theory (Josef Kolbitsch and Hermann Maurer) – Deconstruction of the teacher/student model (Lin Lin) How well do these characterizations match up with the goals and ideals of the Wikipedia Community? – Are they descriptive or prescriptive? – Have we thought out our relation towards them?

18 Conclusions Wrong Conclusions: – There are no or few anti-Wikipedian academics – All or most academics are pro-Wikipedia Correct Conclusions: – Much criticism of Wikipedia is not from academia – There are many pro-Wikipedia academics – What it means to be pro- and anti-Wikipedia in academia largely does not correspond to the viewpoints of Wikipedians


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