[Air-l] Trusted Wikipedia

Alex Halavais halavais at gmail.com
Thu Sep 21 09:52:10 PDT 2006

On 9/21/06, Bonnie Nardi <nardi at ics.uci.edu> wrote:
> 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.

I agree, and I wouldn't want to do something that would curtail that
freedom. As a practical matter, though, Wikipedia continues to be
assailed as a source, and the community reacts to that. I happen to
think that most of the substantive articles on Wikipedia are already
excellent. Again, all this does is provide a link back to something
teachers and librarians are more familiar with. The Wikipedia Training
Wheels Project would probably be a better label, but doesn't quite
have the ring to it.

As for whether students will use it anyway... I think Jennifer is
right. Many teachers at the secondary and at the university level
forbid the use of web sources, and Wikipedia in particular. Students
may use it, but they won't value it. Is that misguided? Yes, at least
in part. But can you blame students or teachers who have been
inculcated with a particular idea of how to evaluate sources? Not

I don't think this project impedes WIkipedia. That is one reason that
I want it to occur (largely) outside the site itself. Were such an
expert review integrated, I think it would interfere with the existing
system. Wikipedia itself is a swiftly moving structure, and is
pressing forward with its own mechanisms of control, but particularly
expert review can survive nicely outside of Wikipedia proper.

At worst, the project would be ignored. At best, again, it provides a
bridge for those with traditional ideas of how knowledge is valued and
produced, and gives them a frame through which they may be introduced
to Wikipedia. I worry that without this, Wikipedia will continue to be
marginalized. Despite phenomenal success, I think it would be best if
it did not remain the *alternative* to existing scholarly resources.

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// Alexander C. Halavais
// Social Architect
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