[Air-l] Trusted Wikipedia

Bonnie Nardi nardi at ics.uci.edu
Thu Sep 21 09:00:02 PDT 2006

Mary Bryson raises many important points. Why indeed are we trying to 
tame this miracle? We already have scads of academic journals. They 
aren't going away, they have enormous value, but they don't have to be 
the only game in town.

On the let a thousand flowers bloom theory, Wikipedia is its own 
wonderful jungle/garden/wildspace.

I like the freedom writers have to write there without worrying about 
what an expert thinks. The funnel is narrowed when a small handful of 
experts begins to exert control and shape the writing.

Wikipedia is one source among many. It is what it is, and what it is is 
unique and has value.

In my experience, today's students are immersed in the Internet and 
they won't skip over Wikipedia just because a teacher tells them it's 
not reliable. The problem is more likely to be that they rely only on 
Wikipedia and don't dig deeper, even when Wikipedia tells them where to 

Mary's points re McLuhan and Arendt are very well taken.



Bonnie A. Nardi
School of Information and Computer Sciences
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-3425
(949) 824-6534

On Sep 21, 2006, at 8:00 AM, Mary K. Bryson wrote:

> On 9/20/06 7:45 PM, "Alex Halavais" <halavais at gmail.com> wrote:
>> To do this, we need to assemble a group of people who have some level
>> of recognition in the field, and who are willing to devote a small
>> amount of time to helping to select a core set of articles and oversee
>> the review process. While we will be looking at a number of ways to
>> make this process more technologically easy, the key issue here is to
>> find a group of people willing to invest a little time and their
>> reputations in an effort to make Wikipedia a more trusted source.
> "Recognition" is such a complicated construct. How to fashion a 
> version of
> "recognition" that would make sense within the unique version of 
> constraints
> that operate in Wikipedia would be a productive educational activity. 
> It
> would be productive of something that would, in all likelihood, stage a
> return to some notion of "verifiable expertise". It's just so hard to 
> avoid
> a return to the repressed. What, exactly, is the problem with 
> Wikipedia,
> anyway, really? And I mean "problem" from a scholarly perspective. 
> Here we
> have an enactment of Hannah Arendt's observation that when there is 
> genuine
> novelty it always appears rather miraculous, and we want to bring a 
> novel
> artifact back into line with what it replaced, against all odds - 
> something
> like - an academic journal? Why? Who doesn't trust Wikipedia, and who 
> wants
> to trust its contents, and what is it to have a relation of "trust" 
> with
> knowledge, anyway? What kind of knowledge is it that improves in its 
> value
> because we stand before it in a relation of "trust"? The latter is 
> probably
> easy enough to answer at the level of the everyday - as in -- "Well if 
> I'm
> going in for open-heart surgery I want the person with the scalpel to 
> know a
> little more than what you could find in a Wikipedia article." But 
> outside of
> that realm of instrumental knowledge, literally, who is a "trusted 
> source"
> and with what are they entrusted, and by whom? It's good to keep in 
> mind
> what McLuhan observed about the contents of a new medium invariably 
> being
> that of what it replaced... Maybe we can't help but experience anxiety 
> that
> this odd site seems kind of like an encyclopedia, but is different. 
> However,
> our relation to that anxiety can also be productive of the insight 
> that we
> might not need to move to enact a strategy of repair.
> Mary
> ---------------
> Dr. Mary K. Bryson, Associate Professor and Director, Graduate 
> Programs,
> ECPS, Faculty of Education, University of British Columbia
> http://educ.ubc.ca/faculty/bryson/cv.html
> Research Profile http://www.ecps.educ.ubc.ca/research/mbryson.htm
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