The Wikipedia question. Definitely one I, as an English Composition teacher, encounter on a frequent basis. For me it represents key questions that are a basis for the classes that I teach, specifically. I teach research, critical thinking, citation practice, subjectivity versus objectivity, logical fallacies, and so much more that goes right into this discussion. No matter how many times I tell students not to cite Wikipedia, I still get ones that do, almost every semester, in at least one of their papers. We have discussions on what Wikipedia can and should be used for and watch the humorous CollegeHumor Video that makes the point about Wikipedia’s potential for inaccuracy incredibly blatant, and I still have students ignore my advice (and thus lose A LOT of points on their paper). I’m now thinking reading articles on Wikipedia may be an excellent way to broach this subject further and get into some of the deeper topics that I cover, listed above. I tell them it is a good first step, a good place to go to get a broad sense of a topic, and to find other potential sources from among their own citations. In reality though, this may be only useful for students that are naturally suspect or have developed critical thinking skills already and question truth from the get-go. Maybe its use should be discouraged for freshmen until they have proved that they can handle it.
The gender question referred to in the “Talk of the Nation” and our articles is a particularly disturbing one that you probably have to have a basis for understanding injustice and gender dynamics before you can understand and think intelligently about. That discussion on NPR was interesting as a whole in that they never fully addressed the woman caller’s issue, just saying “yes, that is how it’s supposed to be” and moving on, talking over her response of “well, then why did this not happen in this instance?” (I’m being petty here, but it stood out.) The idea she was suggesting was that the debate over the topic be part of the article, which makes complete sense as a way to address some of these issues and keep scholars who use Wikipedia up-to-date on current discussions in a field. The comparison she made with Wikipedia was to an academic conference, and this made a lot of sense to me. This is how I have kind of told my students to approach Ted Talks, which does seem maybe a little more apt, though. Wikipedia is not about making arguments, but putting out mass-agreed upon information out into the world, as the segment discusses. Wikipedia relies on secondary sources over primary sources, they said, and I guess as a general model, that makes sense.
I found Schiff’s article in The New Yorker fascinating and there was a lot I did not know about the development of Wikipedia and the behind the scenes part of it. I did not realize it is such a culture in and of itself. I do wonder how this article would differ if written today. How has Wikipedia grown up? She mentions the fact that Wikipedia runs almost completely on donations, what would she say about the constant begging for those donations that Wikipedia does today, that has been criticized by frequent users? Also, in an America where “fake news” is thrown around with great frequency, how does that change what we, as a society need or should expect from a site like Wikipedia? She says, “When confronted with evidence of errors or bias, Wikipedians invoke a favorite excuse: look how often the mainstream media, and the traditional encyclopedia, are wrong!” Which is fine and true that errors occur everywhere, but isn’t the sheer capacity for containing knowledge, space-wise, and the ability to stay completely current (the two biggest pros of Wikipedia), enough to at least inspire hope for accuracy within this platform? I guess I had more trust in the gatekeepers before reading these articles and listening to the NPR segment. I’m definitely left questioning a lot.
If you have not seen this, watch it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaADQTeZRCY. Also this is an interesting “how-to” guide for using Wikipedia within academia and includes other resource lists with more reading: https://www.legalmorning.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Proper-Use-of-Wikipedia-in-Academia.pdf.