Wikipedia – young and naïve or old and wise?

May 14, 2009

Wikipedia confuses me. Not through functionality or its content. But through its ability to represent and preserve humanity’s collected knowledge through collaborative creation of content (Bruns 2008, 167).

And my guess is, if I think that, there is a good chance that many others feel the same way. Today is your day. Come out of the shadows of your social networked universe, hold your Macbook high and scream, “I am not alone!”

Okay, so it’s probably not best to scream anything out aloud, particularly if you’re in a library. But you can virtually. You can do almost anything virtually – shop, sell, create, learn, be entertained, trade, communicate, produce, distribute, or even just exist online.

The complex platform of Wikipedia incorporates many of these elements. The most important of all is that of collective intelligence (Bruns 2008, 151).

However I believe the importance should lie within produsers of topical communities (Bruns 2008, 151). Evaluating user generated by topical experts is significant to Wikipedia entries. Wales (in Bruns 2008, 147) highlights a negative component of this school of thought, which begs the question: “what role is available within produsage environments for a project’s originator”. Similar issues have been raised with open source and originators of produsage projects. By focusing on maintainenance and participation in social networks with adhocrativc governance, Wikipedia can benefit from topical communities without getting wrapped up in irrelevant outcomes (Bruns 2008, 147).

Governing Wikipedia is an area of interest to academics (Bruns 2008, Viegas, Wattenberg and McKeon 2007) and rightly so. Users can edit and produce content with little moderation. Wikipedias community self regulation, administration and governance outnumbers negative issues surrounding editing (Bruns 2008, 140).

Though this heterarchial models of governance has attracted criticism from “disruptors and miscreants” (Bruns 2008, 140). So much so that in 2006, a right-winged “Conservapedia” was developed because creator Andy Schlafly thought Wikipedia had a liberal, anti-American, anti-Christain bias (Seigel 2007). Topics such as homosexuality and Barack Obama have created a stir among the public sphere. Administrators remain Conservapedia differs from Wikipedia in that its articles have a neutral point of view (NPOV). While Wikipedia administrators have are generally ‘requested’ (Bruns 2008, 142), Conservapedia employs a merit system and a traditional hierarchy.

Ultimately Wikipedia follows the principles of produsage as laid out by Bruns (2008, 142-3). Does its popularity and ability to deal with vandalism at a rapid speed enable its virtual existence? Has Wikipedia’s lack of organisational structure at the beginning of this project forced them into ad hoc community involvement?

I need to hear your thoughts on this one, but in the mean time I hope this has provided some virtual clarity.