WikiWhat?

I have often argued that the perception of education we have in the Western world is very frustrating. We value institutionalized knowledge over traditional knowledge – which, in a certain sense, basically means education is largely a product of privilege. An individual with a degree is viewed as having been educated, where a tradesman or farmer, individuals who consume and utilize extremely useful knowledge, are not regarded in the same way as someone with a degree from a formal institution.

This is why Wiki works – because the idea is that it does not overemphasize the value of a degree, but lets the community, or any individual possessing knowledge, act as a contributing member of a knowledge producing population. I can understand the viewpoint that it has become an anarchy moderated by a “gang rule”, but the rules and conditions are necessary to maintain an information pool that stays neutral and informative rather than pushing agendas or perpetuating propaganda.

I love the idea of free knowledge so much – and the fact that anyone can contribute. In fact, I rarely have time to know all the information I want to know. It is extremely helpful that in the past 24 hours, there are already separate Wiki pages for the Panama Papers, the Panama Papers Leaks, and Individuals suspected in the Panama Papers.

While looking for the edit dates of the aforementioned pages, I got distracted and searched for other recent events. In an effort to understand why it was taking me 15 tries and multiple hours to complete an easy reading assignment, I also derailed long enough to read about mental fatigue.

As informative, neutral, and open as Wiki aims to be, and as much as I want to support the idea that everyone should contribute to knowledge, there are definite guidelines that need to be followed.

I was particularly struck by this quote in the article about Black Confederates:

The rapid spread of black Confederate soldier narratives is a function not only of proponents’ apparent desire to openly admire the Confederacy without appearing to favor a white supremacist society and government but also of the rise of inexpensive and easy-to-use digital tools.

I believe the issues of the Black Confederate narrative also serve to excuse the glorification of the confederacy because African-American soldiers “fought” for it. I can just hear someone saying “It wasn’t about slavery, black soldiers fought for the confederacy” in the exact same tone that people say “I’m not racist; I have black friends.”

Then history does become a product that must be filtered through review and a set of guidelines. How do we rectify using our training and education to produce correct and objective information with appropriate sources and context without regarding our education as more important or valuable than traditional knowledge?

I like this quote:

“I nor the other blogger claim no more authority than you. . . . You and yours have repeatedly shown that you do not have a grasp of the original source material that you present. However, the other blogger and I have history degrees which is not the be-all-to-end-all on the situation, but it does help us when we are working with source materials. . . . [W]e have a background understanding of how to work with those items.[24]

Perhaps in the end it’s not so much about the knowledge, but knowing how to handle it and how to care for it properly. As much as I want to acknowledge that all forms of knowledge are equal, I am most guilty of, after years of anthropological training, telling people with biased opinions that they are not experts on society just because they exist in it.

In fact I take it personally when people think they understand society, ethnic relations, and cultural dynamics better than I do just because they watch NBC Nightly News and have an opinion.

Where is this balance?

-Sarah

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