Some of the things we reasonably thought turned out to be the other way around. Perhaps tolerance is the passion of the inquisitors and ignorance is strength. The point is that every time the media asks about Wikipedia they tend to ask the wrong questions. Is Wikipedia reliable? How good are Wikipedia articles?
And here we could, in a few words, remind ourselves that that online encyclopedia that we have at our fingertips and at the price we want to pay for it turns out to be an ” unforeseen miracle ” and a delicate ecosystem, but it surprises us with 20 years of resistance full of answers to questions no one had ever asked.
Above, Wikipedia is something in the conventional background, an encyclopedia, the page that the user experiences, finds and reads. But behind it is a process based on an innovative idea, “radical trust” that sets in motion intangible incentives for many people to create and edit.
Wikipedia is a content and a community. In addition to relevant information for the network, it is a monumental experiment in the production of a certain type of knowledge, cultivated by hand, with the humility and conviction of the artisan.
Without the help of educational and cultural institutions
Wikipedia was made without the design or participation of the educational and cultural institutions that we had trusted. While some academics tightened their bow tie, thousands of irregular, donating their cognitive surplus , were changing the rules of encyclopedias, of learning, and of shared knowledge.
For this exhortation we borrowed the formula that Umberto Eco devised in his 1974 article on television, in which he put us before the mirror of the individual responsibility of the viewer in the construction of a degraded television universe and advocated a guerrilla war.
Something like that happened with Wikipedia. If no one from the constituted power came to do it, if the copyright prevented the reuse for the common good of the knowledge that was already systematized in solvent reference works, then it would have to be started from scratch, as in the Middle Ages, even if it takes a few years.
Total, instead of being placed in a monastery copying by hand the cultural legacy of the ancient world, one is spending a while one night in which he has not managed to meet on Tinder writing with pleasure about a subject for which he feels enthusiasm, and even then crocodile, that where I left it another will come to continue it.
Forbidden to use Wikipedia
The most frequent speech in teaching is summarized in “prohibited to use Wikipedia”. In it are embodied all the evils of poorly performed tasks, works without bibliographic research, plagiarism, texts made of patches and a long etcetera.
However, no teacher would be comfortable saying “forbidden to use an encyclopedia.” Nor by self-criticizing why we teach so little about the use of adequate information sources to contextualize a topic, which is the place that general and specialized encyclopedias occupy in the food chain of the research process.
But the beauty is on the other side, when in the framework of formal teaching activities to write and use Wikipedia are introduced . The educational initiatives promoted by the Wikimedia Foundation , WikiEdu , and other organizations bring together this aspect of connecting formal education with the adventure of learning by doing Wikipedia.
There a revealing transformation takes place. When a group of students is commissioned to improve an article on a topic of their specialty or interest, they are placed in a real information literacy laboratory.
Here he finds sense and incentives to carry out an objective writing, careful in making statements that must be supported by quotes from reliable sources. Because you are contributing content to a website that will be consulted in the future by thousands of people.
It is no longer an invisible classroom job, limited to the teacher’s evaluation. It is a job with repercussions for which to take responsibility. The strict rules of style, citation, verifiability and neutral point of view that the Wikipedian community is responsible for enforcing will apply to it. The contents do not arise alone or isolated, but the result of an editorial dynamic sustained by people, the community.
A suggestive study, led by Eduard Aibar , concluded that teachers believe that their colleagues value Wikipedia negatively. So is it that we use Wikipedia in private? Is there a feeling of guilt and does it only come out of the closet when a prestigious member of the teaching or research team publicly assumes that Wikipedia is a source of value?
Wikipedia for years has become an object of research , a new continent from which to map its accidents, its fauna, flora and customs, and it is allowing the generation of a wide corpus of academic research from almost all areas of knowledge.
He grew up with his back to the University
Nobody in the upper echelons will consider that improving Wikipedia also scores in those long-awaited six-year terms of transfer, or does it? Or that showing a biography will bring us closer to greater scientific visibility. Wikipedia has grown up behind the back of the university, as an unrecognized son, a vigorous fruit of love.
It is convenient that those who have specialized knowledge and are in the task of extending and sharing it get involved by contributing their ability to create a better encyclopedia and understand how and why it is done precisely like that, among all. Knowledge is contagious, and the encyclopedia is a good source of transmission.
Author Bios: Tomas Saorin is Coordinator of the degree in Information Management and digital content at the University of Murcia and Florence Claes is Professor of Multimedia Journalism at Rey Juan Carlos University