*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.