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Week 8 – Wikipedia

by on September 10, 2012

This blog post is brought to you by Tamara Barrett, Georgia Charleston & Natasha Senaratna.


What is a Wiki?

  • In 1995 Ward Cunningham developed the first software for a wiki and created a web page called wikiwikiweb, which invited users to edit content via their web browsers.
  • Wikis allow collaboration amongst a community of users, inviting them to edit pages, or create new pages within the website.
  • There was generally no peer review process for wikis, and in most cases you didn’t even have to register to edit the wiki page.


  • Created in 2000 by Jimmy Wales & Larry Sanger.
  • Peer reviewed encyclopedia articles.
  • Speed was a massive factor in Nupedias down fall.


  • Launched in 2001 it was originally used for people to discuss and suggest content that could be submitted to Nupedia.
  • Wikipedia has had numerous problems.
  • 22 million articles that have been collaboratively written by people around the world.
  • 100,000 regular contributors.
  • 285 Language editions.
  • Wikipedia costs $6 million a year to run.

“At a rate of 600 words a minute, 16 hours a day, a person could read about 17,000,000 words in a month. In the month of July 2006, Wikipedia grew by over 30,000,000 words. It is unlikely for any single reader to read all of Wikipedia’s new content. Reading the current incarnation at that rate would take over seven years, and by the time they were done, so much would have changed with the parts they had already read that they would have to start over.”

An Example of editing on Wikipedia


What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About New Media Literacies – Henry Jenkins

The Wikipedia Debate –

  • In 2006, a Vermont school took a very public stance and banned students from sourcing Wikipedia. Students were to take responsibility for the credibility of their sources.
  • The Wikipedia Debate is a perfect way to illustrate the division between the digital and technological generation of today and the parents, teachers and administrators who are less familiar with the emergence of these new trends.
  • There will be a lag in confidence and ability in the digital universe for the older generations, while the digital savvy generation powers ahead with the process of carving out a new kind of literacy.
  • The MacArthur Foundation has dedicated $50 million over 5 years to research this evolving and fast paced process.

Participatory Culture –


  • Low barriers to artistic expression and civic engagement.
  • Strong support for creating and sharing.
  • All information is passed down from those with more experience to those with less.
  • Members feel their contributions matter.
  • Members share social connections with each other (Networking).

Benefits of Participatory Culture –

  • Peer to peer learning.
  • Changed notion of intellectual property.
  • A shift in cultural experiences.
  • The development of life skills.
  • An empowered notion of citizenship.

(All the skills above are extensions of, or advancements, in the traditional skills that are attributed to formal education)

The Structure/Make up of Participatory Culture –

  • Teens and adults are able to interact together easily.
  • There is a less fixed or hierarchical system or structure.
  • All members can be involved and contribute, in other words it is an equal and fair system whereby everyone has a voice.

New Media Literacies –

  • Involving a set of cultural and social skills required by the digital generation in order to understand and navigate the new media landscape.

KEY TERMS – Collaboration and Networking; a shift of focus from individual to community involvement

Core Issues regarding ‘New Media Literacies’ –

  • The Participation Gap
  • The Transparency Problem
  • The Ethics Challenge

Key Skills of ‘New Media Literacies’ –

  • Collective Intelligence
  • Judgement
  • Networking
  • Negotiation

Wikipedia Reconsidered –

  • Growing concerns that students are not developing the ability to be critical of information found on Wikipedia.
  • As well as concerns about the credibility of the information and the deconstruction of typical perceptions of ‘the expert’.
  • So the solution? ‘Teach the Debate!’
  • Informed scepticism vs. A dismissive attitude.

Wikipedia, Students and the Participation Gap –

  • Young learners often exploit online information – cut and paste.
  • Confusion about where facts have come from.
  • The difference in access to these digital technologies impacts on a young learner’s ability to be critical of information gathered online.
  • Those with the most extensive access are more likely to look critically at what they see, they have had the time to learn the process of collaborative knowledge production and experience it firsthand.
  • For those with minimal access, for example only at school or a public library, they are more likely to take the facts gathered at face value rather than be skeptical of the information.
  • The Participation Gap = uneven access to technology + unequal access to experience + unequal opportunities to learn social skills and cultural competencies.
  • Online communities like Wikipedia are shaping how students perform in school and is influencing the types of future opportunities these students will prefer.


Mind Map

Research skills – should I use Wikipedia?

We use encyclopedias to gain a general understanding of issues. Encyclopedias are a good place to start for research.

There are both positive and negatives with the use of using Wikipedia.


  • It is freely available.
  • Some of the entries may be the most available and up-to-date information.
  • The history of discussion on some topics allows you to see how contributors arrive at a point of view on topics and issues.
  • Information is continuously created and updated.
  • Articles appear within minutes.
  • Continuous browsing – hyperlinks scattered throughout entries. 25 per article in English (O’ Sullivan, 2009).
  • The content is rich with information.


  • Some caution needs to be taken as some entries are not necessarily written by experts in the field.
  • Anyone can contribute to entries quite easily.
  • There can be some misinformation and entries can be biased.
  • Risk of error.

Some questions we ask ourselves:

Should I use Wikipedia?

  • Wikipedia can be used as a starting point for research.
  • You can gather ideas in approaching a concept.
  • The information provided is updated continuously.
  • It may be the only source available or the only available account to a new phenomenon.

Should I use Wikipedia in my essays?

  • As it is an encyclopedia it  should not be used in essays as it has limited authority as a primary research source.
  • The information may not be authoritative.
  • There is a lack of explicit quality.
  • Entries may vary in its quality.

Is Wikipedia becoming a respectable academic source?

The article posed a question “How many humanities and social sciences researchers are discussing, using, and citing Wikipedia?”

  • Of the 167 results were retrieved between 2002 and 2008, 8 where from project Muse. However in contrast of the 149 Listed by Project Muse and 3 from JSTOR from a search for “Encyclopedia Britannica” between 2002 and 2008 were found.
  • It was found that there was a steady increase of the use of Wikipedia between 2002 and 2008.

Wikipedia Citations


  • Citing by well-known scholars increase the respectability of Wikipedia.
  • Wikipedia ranges from a diverse selection of topics ‘from military-industrial complex to horror films to Bush’s second state of the union speech.’
  • Results found that 111 are ‘straight citations’, 56 using Wikipedia as a source, 8 used Wikipedia as a source for imagery, 14 criticise using Wikipedia in research and 11 cited Wikipedia as a model for participatory culture.
  • Wikipedia does have its limitations and many are aware of this when they cite Wikipedia, however those citing Wikipedia assert the relevance of the information for their project.
  • Although more researchers are citing Wikipedia does not mean it is a valid source.
  • As scholars are beginning to cite and find Wikipedia useful, academic norms are shifting.

There are four main criticisms:

  • Research projects should not rely upon encyclopedias.
    Wikipedia covers topics often left out of traditional reference works.
  • Unstable to cite.
    Entries can be changed and information can be removed or added. What you find today might not be accessible tomorrow as the entry has been edited. The information can be inaccurate. By using an open source approach, Wikipedia can be edited can be edited by those in its community.
  • You cannot trust Wikipedia.
    Anyone can contribute to Wikipedia anonymously.
  • There is no peer review.
    Lack of scholarly authority of an article published in an academic journal.
    Wikipedia’s appropriateness as an academic source depends on what is being cited and for what purpose.


“The openness of Wikipedia is instructive in another way: by clicking on tabs that appear on every page, a user can easily review the history of any article as well as contributors’ ongoing discussion of and sometimes fierce debates around its content, which offer useful insights into the practices and standards of the community that is responsible for creating that entry in Wikipedia. (In some cases, Wikipedia articles start with initial contributions by passionate amateurs, followed by contributions from professional scholars/researchers who weigh in on the “final” versions. Here is where the contested part of the material becomes most usefully evident.) In this open environment, both the content and the process by which it is created are equally visible, thereby enabling a new kind of critical reading—almost a new form of literacy—that invites the reader to join in the consideration of what information is reliable and/or important” (Brown & Adler)


Do you use Wikipedia as a resource?

Do you think online resources like Wikipedia are impacting the way students learn and conduct research? Do you have any real life examples to illustrate this?


From → Uncategorized

  1. Get excited people! How does wikipedia and participatory cultures more generally influence your learning and experience online?

  2. Great job guys, really enjoyed the preso! Interesting and insightful. *Clap *Clap

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