We used to need libraries to make the sum of human knowledge available to all. Today we have Wikipedia, where the sum of human knowledge can be shaped by all of us. But can we trust it?
Wikipedia features 30 million articles, in 287 languages. And it’s written and edited — for free — by 77,000 contributors around the world. What did we do before Wikipedia? How has wikipedia influenced knowledge flow and global connectedness? How does technology change the nature of information, the truth, facts and the power of community? Power of the collective interactive space where everyone on the planet can collaborate. At this CBC radio podcast Philip Coulter suggests that the collective mind is perhaps the best mind we have.
Coulter dubs the term ‘vector knowledge’ which summarizes perfectly how wikipedia knowledge networks connect directly and indirectly to create the mesh of human information and knowledge in this digital repository.
Download The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1
[mp3 file: runs 00:53:58]
In the podcast The Great Book of Knowledge, Part 1 you will hear a fascinating discussion about Wikipedia from a number of operational, social, innovative, and connected society perspectives.The entire podcast is very worthwhile listening to in order to be able to really appreciate the [R]evolution in access to human knowledge, and the way we build and share information to further knowledge endeavours.
Tips for Using Wikipedia Effectively
Use Wikipedia to get a general overview, and follow the references it provides as far as they can take you.
Look at the Discussion tab to see if the article you’re reading is part of a WikiProject, meaning that a group of people who care about the subject area are working in concert on its content. They may not be experts on the subject, but signing onto a WikiProject implies a writer has more than a casual interest in it.
If it is part of a WikiProject, see if it has been rated. Articles in WikiProjects go through a type of peer review. This is not the same type of peer review your professor talks about regarding scholarly research, but even such a limited review does at least imply that someone from the WikiProject has looked at the article at some point and assigned a quality rating to it. In any case, to be fairly sure that a Wikipedia article expresses what laypeople might need to know to consider themselves reasonably informed, look for a rating of B/A or above.
You may find it helpful to consult any or all of the following for additional help in understanding Wikipedia, finding and evaluating sources:
Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View guideline
Wikipedia on verifiability
Wikipedia on original research (example)
Wikipedia: Peer review