Monday, May 08, 2006

Is There Any Distinction Anymore?

Against Wikipedias (For Scholarship)

It appears students are citing Wikipedia articles in their philosophy papers. I wonder how many students are losing what in the past might have been an inherent grasp of what is meaningful, thoughtful and scholarly. One is driven to ruminate whether the proliferation and ubiquity of media that are inherently unaccountable is blurring the line between the genuinely real and the piecemeal fabrications of postmodern society.

2 comments:

metapundit said...

<humour>
That's an interesting idea! Can I cite you in my thesis?
</humour>

More substantively, Groothius seems to be switching back and forth between critiquing "wikipedia" and "wikis". These are two different things: a wiki is a piece of software and a standard syntax for quickly and collaboratively editing a website. Wikis do tend to be used for information that is fluid and changing (the documentation for a piece of software, for instance).

Wikipedia, on the other hand, is an organization with a website that aims to have a collaboratively edited Encyclopedia. It is using sophisticated wiki software to accomplish this goal: while in theory the information in the wikipedia is ephemeral, in practice it has been quite stable and fairly reliable (cf the study comparing Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Brittanica)

I do think that students need to learn the skills of dead tree research and might ban any Internet-based links in research papers on that account... I don't see citing wikipedia, however, as much lower down the intellectual food chain than citing the Encyclopedia...

Tim Van Tongeren said...

I prefer using wikipedia as a first place to check for information over googling. At least at wikipedia I see a broad range of information on the subject and I won't get weird or obscene pop-ups.