[Air-l] wikipedia and defamation

Bob Rehak zencat at indiana.edu
Mon Dec 5 20:26:53 PST 2005

Speaking as an instructor at a fairly large and fairly mainstream university
who's seen the widespread and apparently spontaneous adoption of Wikipedia as a
taken-for-granted (as in "Why are you marking me down for this?") citational
source among undergraduates, I'd venture to guess that part of the problem is
this: we who profess to theorize new media have yet to grapple significantly
with the implications of news items such as this this:


in which the nature of new media proves itself once again to exceed the glacial
engines of academic thought. Wikipedia as an information source responds
*instantly* to updates; all well and good. But the news media responds equally
quickly, giving us stories in the Sunday times, on Google News (itself a logical
outgrowth of Wiki's information aesthetic -- no less an distinctive and
individual brand for its nonprofit status) and in the
very-definition-of-cutting-edge Slashot.com. Wikipedia itself responds to the
response by mutating its operating procedure.

In short: old media (which, for better or worse, we must admit to understanding
as the media of our youths, the media in which we were schooled) ticked along at
a reassuringly slow pace -- suited to the rythyms of graduate students and
university faculty toiling away at their research projects in libraries,
journals, print, textbooks, classroom curricula. Wikipedia, both as an
information source and a legal/cultural entity, updates *fast* -- faster, I
suspect, than even the dedicated legions of bloggers can cope with. Even as we
debate the relative merits and disadvantages of Wikipedia, we academics &
theorists fall into the subtly ridiculous category of the quaint -- the ones who
are doomed to remember (and repeat ad nauseum, like old Abe Simpson) "the way it
used to be."

Meanwhile, I wonder in the face of the coming semester: what's the best way to
sensitize my 20 and 21-year-old students to the alarm that I feel in the face of
Wikipedia? How do I get them involved? And how do I assign credit for it?



Bob Rehak

Department of Communication and Culture
Mottier Hall, 1790 East Tenth St.
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN  47405-9700

Animation: An Interdisciplinary Journal

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