Monday, July 21, 2008

transforming 'academic' resources?

*Apologies for the lack of philosophical content in this post. My present thoughts have been directed towards the production and dissemination of 'academic' knowledge

Correctly, or incorrectly, websites, or more accurately, online databases, such as Wikipedia are regarded as nonacademic resources. To reference Wikipedia in an essay, dissertation, or article is to commit a sin. It would be far wiser to stick to referencing peer reviewed articles. To a certain degree I find this view, or situation, problematic. Instead of academics wishing Wikipedia did not exist, could not a greater effort be made to raise the standard of entries and discussion? I would never suggest that Wikipedia should replace academic articles, but I would suggest that there should be a greater effort on the part of academics to embrace and transform Wikipedia. I put forward these reasons:

Students, while they might not reference it in their work, do use Wikipedia as a reference site. It serves a ‘first stop’ site of reference for many topics or philosophers. This is a crucial point of learning. It is therefore important that the introduction is informative and of a high and accessible standard.

Academic journals, while (usually) of a high standard, have a limited readership. They are rarely read outside academic circles and often have a subscription fee. In contrast, Wikipedia is free access, has a larger readership, and offers an opportunity for academics to communicate outside academia.

The non-peer review problem of Wikipedia can be overcome. For example, if some academic, or academics, are writing an entry for a philosopher they could communicate this with other academics. These academics could read, review, and ‘correct’ the entry. It would also offer an opportunity for non-academics to ‘peer-review’ the entry.

Wikipedia, unlike journal articles, is a hypertext and allows the opportunity for non-linear reading. Cross references to other topics can be added to the article, which can help to demonstrate the interconnections the topic brings to the forefront. For example, an entry discussing ‘developmental theory’ could establish a hyperlink to ‘dependency theory.’

These are only a few suggestions and arguments for adopting a stance towards ‘embracing’ Wikipedia. Ideally, the position that Wikipedia is a non-academic resource could become a non-argument. Electronic writing and the arrival of digital media have transformed the world and this means academic writing requires a certain degree of transformation. Books and Journals are never to be completely replaced, but these are products of print culture and the gutenberg press. Arguable, there requires the growth of more websites like the Standford Encycloepedia of Philosophy. Instead of writing an article why not composev a podcast to download? As new mediums emerge there requires more experimentation, the removal of ingrained, and historically constituted, prejudices towards the ‘correct’ method of producing knowledge. A pragmatic attitude that realises the historical contingencies of the present would be more beneficial.


The Brooks Blog said...

There are several problems with Wikipedia. Let's say all the 'best' (however understood) scholars sat around and 'improved sufficiently' (however understood) a series of entries. What could then be problematic about citing these entries? One problem is that what these entries are is fluid: there is no guarantee that what I am accessing on a particular date is the entry these scholars constructed. (I would have to also not when I viewed the site, as sites change throughout the day.) A further problem is the complete of standards: we now know the White House actively edited Wikipedia sites. Yes, it is free and well visited: these are merits. But sometimes you get what you pay for. This is definitely true in this case: we are best off with more thoroughly scrutinized work in peer-reviewed outputs, whatever they are.

Mark202 said...

I agree there is a lot of problems with wikipedia. (there is also problems linked to any form of 'knowledge' dissimination).
The fluidity issue is problematic. However, in comparision, I find it problematic of the closeness of the Standford Encycloepedia of Philosophhy. In addition to having entries on philosophers and philosophical topics, could there also not be discussion pages? Online Journals could also host this opportunity?
In addition, could not wikipedia become a 'battleground'. Why should only the whitehouse have the luxury of editing entries.
Overall, wikipedia does not need to be the website for transforming academic resources. Instead, my main argument is for an engagment with more mediums of the digital/information age from academia. I tend to think academia failed to engage with the first media age (Television, film, Radio...) and the second media age (e.g. Internet, Podcasts...) should not be the same.

The Brooks Blog said...

On your points:

(1) One reason why there is no discussion board is who has the time to look after it?

(2) Online journals do have discussion pages. I've started something of the sort for the JMP ( off my blog and Facebook group site. Even better is the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, as well as the now defunct BEARS. These do exist.

(3) The White House should not be alone and it isn't -- our students regularly add/change content on Wikipedia, too. The problem is anyone can do it and it is far from clear that Wikipedia is better for it.

(4) I don't think is true. Academics are regularly on tv (esp in the US discussing books, often on PBS or C-SPAN). Plus, take a look at the leading US universities: they all have free podcasts on their sites, even full courses at a handful. (See Hubert Dreyfus's site.) Perhaps the view is different when one only looks at the UK, but certainly not true in the US...and probably not too shabby here, too.

finance homework help said...

It was an interesting post and I would say that the fluidity issue is problematic. However, in comparision, I find it problematic of the closeness of the Standford Encycloepedia of Philosophhy.