Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Week 6 Seminar: Wikis - The Wikipedia, Collective Intelligence and Communal Authorship

This week, we are looking at the wonderful world of Wiki! What, I hear you ask is a Wiki?

“A wiki is a web application that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also allows anyone to edit the content.”

And, I hear you ask, where did you find that definition? The answer to that question would be from Wikipedia, the world famous online encycolpedia, which has over 600,000 entries so far, not to mention its many translations. Wikipedia is perhaps one of the most famous examples of the use of ‘wiki’s’ and has amassed a collection of knowledge through the collaborative work of, basically, anybody on the web. Wikipedia stands in wonderful testament of the “Free Culture” movement, which you may recall from previous readings including Lessig. Its success has been documented by a number of media articles, however some still raise issues of concern over the ‘freely edited’ entries and their accuracry (due to pranks or internet graffiti). Nevertheless, even Microsoft is interested in adding the Wiki editing ability to its famous encylopedia ‘Encarta’.

Below is a list of readings, none of which are excessively long, but all offer some insights into the wonderful world of ‘wiki’ and its implications for free culture.

[X] Thomas Goetz, Wired, “Open Source Everywhere”, Issue 11.11, November 2003 (Print view)

[X] Daniel.H.Pink, Wired, “The Book Stops Here”, Issue 13.03, March 2005 (Please be aware there are four pages to navigate through)

[X] Olga Kharif, Business Week Online, “Wikimania and The Free Culture Movement”, August 2005

These articles should give you some good background knowledge on Wikipedia and Open Source. Some things you might like to consider while reading are:

1) What are the potentials of open source platforms such as Wikipedia? How does it compare to more traditional works such as Britannica?

2) How does Wikipedia and Open Source fit into the notion of ‘Fee Culture’ and how may we consider Open Source in relation to such things as Copyright Law?

3) How serious are the potential concerns over accuracy and misuse of Wikipedia and other Open Source software? What steps do you think could be taken to overcome these issues?

In relation to this third question you might like to take a quick look at the following article which I was originally going to include:

[X] “Webs Wikipedia to Tighten Editorial Rules”- Yahoo News –Courtesy of Reuters, August 2005.

And its response from the founder, Jimmy Wales, who remarks on the complete inaccuracy of the claims here on Lessig’s Blog:

[X] “Media Madness”, Lawrence Lessig’s Blog, August 6th 2005 Post

Furthermore, in specific relation to Wikipedia itself, you may want to take a look at the following:

[X] Wikipedia itself (Please take note of the different languages available, and Wiki’s sister projects at the bottom of the frontpage).

[X] An example article on Weblogs and how they are defined…..please take a look at the Talk/Discussion Tabs on the page, and see how the individual authors have debated over the definiton. Also look at such things as the History of each article and notice how Wikipedia keeps track of all the changes that are made.

[X] Lessig’s Wiki! Yes that’s right, Lessig has his Wiki edition of CODE AND OTHER LAWS OF CYBERSPACE, which can be edited and updated, obviously with some overseeing by Lessig himself.

[X] You may also like to consider Wikipedia’s potential for reporting on current events such as the “London Bombings”.

Feel free to have a look around Wikipedia and maybe pick out any article that interests you and bring it in for possible discussion. I suggest some funny articles to look at as a starting point on Wikis “Unusual Articles Page”.

And finally, why not have a look at the recent scandal Tama posted about on “Ponderance: "Wikipedia gets Punk'd".


Blogger Hilary said...

just an example to show how up- to -date and relevant Wikipedia is....check out their Spaghetti Monster article:

The spag monster made me do it!
Courtesy of Waxy.org

Fri Aug 19, 08:22:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Sorry guys I have been sick since friday, so I thought I would post this up anyway, even though it is very late but you still might be interested!


Its the Wikimania (ie the Wikimedia conference) blog site, where they have made entries relating to events in the conference.
I just thought it was intersting.

I hope you all have lots of good ideas for tomorrow, dont let me just chatter away ;)

Tue Aug 23, 02:46:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

This is not my official post-class post, but I love the wikipedia! I just looked up 'superman' on it, and I got an amazingly well structured, easy to navigate, and suprisingly succinct feast of information!
Instead of trawling through a maze of cluttered fan sites, I could find lots of cool trivia in the one place!

Wed Aug 24, 11:52:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

ah, my love for wiki is contagious ;)

hopefully your cold wasnt :p

Thu Aug 25, 11:39:00 am 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

Firstly, pretend I said something hipper than Superman.

The Wikipedia seminar was a great way to focus in on some of the key things about our interactions with stuff ('things' and 'stuff,' -this is going well) on the internet. I guess one of the most obvious things that the wikipedia does is reawaken the need to question from where(or whom)the information is coming. The suspicion with which we can view wikipedia though, needn't be a malicious or an elitist type of suspicion just because it attempts to aspire to the same standards of accuracy and objectivity as an encyclopaedia, rather it reminds me of the need to QUESTION EVERYTHING! I'm not spoiling for a revolution but the same grain of salt we use when we read the newspaper (okay, with some newspapers, a whole shaker)should obviously be used to read the info we find on net. But maybe the wikipedia is not only to be viewed as an example of this kind of info but is perhaps a great resource through which ppl can constantly be reminded of the importance of the critical process. Ppl question info, then if they choose, they can actively challenge it by interacting with the material. The history function is fascinating because it helps show how fluid the information
is, how many authors are involved in it, and how being critical and engaging with it is what makes the wikipedia what it is. (AND makes it so immediate AND so diff from fixed forms of info like encarta etc. but maybe we should not try to compare wik to these?)

I think the thing that is the most encouraging about wikipedia is that all (except for vandals etc.) the engagement with this resource is motivated by a desire to both share and receive knowledge, not make money etc. etc. I also liked the idea of it being a self repairing, 'alive' thing. Which also raised lots of questions about whether the wikipedia is the wikipedia (or, I guess, A wikipedia?) if it is fixed, if access to it is restricted, if it is policed and edited with varied levels of constraint etc. (Which I might get into in another entry, because I found discussing this really fascinating.)

I'm aware that this has been an EXTREMELY positive reading of the wikipedia and that there are many issues I haven't mentioned.

It was a wicked presentation by the way Hilary, and those palm cards gave you a professional edge!

Thu Aug 25, 09:10:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

thanks liz, i'l pay you the money later ;)

and btw, I will pick up on some of the things you said in my comment too, I like the points you raised in that :)

Thu Aug 25, 10:44:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

As I implied in class, I truly believe that Wikipedia is a crystalization of human intelligence and a concept that can be applied in many aspects as has already been done in Wikiversiy and books. Everybody has different interests that drive them to delve into different areas of the world and acquire specific knowledge of. Noone's knowledge is richer than those of people who are genuinly interested in the area.

When I first came across Wikipedia while looking up a meaning of a word, I came up with the rather obvious concern that anyone could intentionally put wrongful information on it. This obvious concern was nicely solved in the reading "The Book Stops Here";making changes is so simple that who prevails often comes down to who cares more.


Fri Aug 26, 09:36:00 am 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

YO! Nice seminar Hilary. Wikipedia is pretty cool ;P

Since everyone is writing positively about wikipedia, perhaps I can talk about some of the negative sides.

(I couldn't think of any so I have to google it)

Anyway, one of the bigger problem with wikipedia is that since anyone can come in and start editing existing information, there is a lack of integrity and accountability. (Despite the feature to revert back to previous postings as mentioned by Kaori)

The average reader who knows little about the subject doesn't know if the information they are looking at at any particular moment is good. Maybe they arrived just after a prankster.

Indeed the fluidity and the flexibility of the system also leads to abuse and manipulation.

Mon Aug 29, 09:47:00 am 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Hey dudes, sorry I'm a sqiudge late this week... cabin fever setting in!

I agree with Andrew about the potential for inaccurate information to be taken as fact by unsuspecting readers... I know I was a tad negative in the seminar (sorry Hilary:) but I guess I think of my little sisters being on the net, and I can see that Wikipedia is best for those who really understand how it works as a 'living' system.

But seriously, I like Wiki, I do! And I agree with Liz that using it can be a great way to develop our critical attitude to ALL printed media. Not to mention the potential to combine human intelligence that Kaori also suggested... The idea of a medical Wiki in which doctors and scientists across the globe could share their discoveries and debate their philosophies and ideas is fantastic! Instead of individuals clinging to intellectual property like a kid with a toy dumptruck, sharing could increase the resources for everyone.

Mon Aug 29, 10:27:00 am 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

And by the way, great stuff there Hilary... good palm card action... might do a few myself now. hmmm.

On a spectacularly unrelated note, I just found something hilarious... it's not a wiki, at a stretch, I could suggest it was an example of free speech or online community I guess...
http://www.snarkywood.com/ Warning: no educational content.

Mon Aug 29, 10:35:00 am 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Because of its total lack of educational content I HAD to check that site out! :p
HUSBAND OF THE YEAR? ok, not that I know much about GQ but whatever respectibility it had before that comment is now - whoosh gone!
except of course for the fact that MAYBE the snarky sister people have their wires crossed, see, im being a proper responsible internet user and questioning the SOURCES :P
I think that maybe that site Gwen is simply proof that grassroots media can also have its SUN and WOMANS WEEKLY's!!! :P

Mon Aug 29, 10:59:00 am 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Hurrah! Everyone has commented *except me* so now I shall comment and reflect on all the ideas you have come up with :)
Although your general responses to Wiki have been a bit more negative than I had hoped, you all seem to have thought a lot about its method of production and how a wiki works (and implications that come from that).
Liz raised a good point about how the internet, like all other sources of information will always require a critical reading. Though sadly, many people won’t necessarily have the skills to take everything with a pinch of salt like we have learned from our university education. I wonder though, whether the ability of communal authorship that Wikipedia and other wiki authored sites offer, will create users who are more likely to become involved in the construction of the actual pages. In other words, if someone reads a newspaper article, and doesn’t apply a critical reading it simply ends there. But with wiki, when you read that article, you can adjust it, become involved with it etc USERS BECOME PRODUCERS, or at least are consistently faced with the methods of production when using the system. If people come onto wiki, read the first page about communal authorship and are constantly faced with the option to edit, they might become more aware of the methods of production and question what is in front of them as opposed to reading an actual book (which may be edited and produced by a single author, whose hidden agendas may be less known or evident).
Andrew and Gwen both touched upon other problems related to the open editing wiki’s offer, and I think this is an important point and a valid problem. At the moment though, as Kaori said, the fact is that who cares the most wins!! This unfortunately isn’t a foolproof system *by far* but, wiki is only in its infancy, and with such vested interests from groups like the FREE CULTURE MOVEMENT, one might soon find new ideas being put into place that will eventually weed out a large percentage of the reliability problems.
What I hope everyone picked up on though, and some have alluded to it in their comments, is the great potential projects and technology such as Wiki’s offer. It may not be perfect, but its success has made people stop and think about how information is distributed, and who should have rights over it. Its projects like Wiki, and the people who support it etc, with the help of technology and the new abilities it offers, who will help to shape the future. Technology has changed the established methods of producing culture and information, and questioned these methods, and the response is often for change and improvement!
Anyway, thankyou all for your positive comments about my seminar, I am so glad you enjoyed!
*Hugs to you all!* :D

Mon Aug 29, 11:21:00 am 2005  

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