In order to allot myself more time to work on my essay, I made an effort to do most of the required readings today… Here is a blog reflecting some of my thoughts about Wikipedia:
Levinson did a good job of describing the conflicting attitudes toward writing:
“knowledge must have the seal of expert approval” vs. “inclusionist” writing, i.e. anyone can colloborate and edit.
While the former enhances accountability in proportion to the amount of credibility the experts (and publishing company) want to maintain, it obsolesces democratic participation in information production. The latter seems to enhance accountability by sheer numbers (millions of Wiki updaters and editors), and perhaps obsolesces “expert opinion.” But does it really???
Let’s say that I have a new theory about what Nietzsche’s “Will to Power” reallllllly meant. Could I go onto Wikipedia and edit it to my liking? Without citing some authority, like Kaufman or Agamben? The issue is that I couldn’t cite them because it was entirely my own idea. This example seems to underline what I feel about (some aspects of) Wikipedia: it is not necessarily a site which encourages new information, but rather a sort of ‘managerial’ space where we mediate information, or where we handle it between production (i.e. the experts or objective facts/events) and consumption (i.e. the viewers). Can the viewer really become a producer at Wikipedia? Or can they become a manager of the information?
Even in situations like Levinson’s examples of Pakistan or Ted Kennedy, can the producer create his own theory of the situation, or simply give the objective information insofar as it relates to quantifiable fact? Is our creativity displaced into acts of “refactoring” like Michael C. Morgan describes? A bit of this reminds me of Heidegger’s conception of technology:
Technology offers us a simulated reality—one which collapses time and space (i.e. offers immediacy and ultimate proximity to information). The medium (or “enframement”) gives forth such an excess of information that we are left as “standing-reserve” or attendant to the information, without any authentic creative space.
I don’t quite agree with that assessment; I think very often wikiSpaces can encourage creative colloboration. However, the colloboration must be deemed “notable,” “accurate” (by editors/administrators), and is always vulnerable to distortion or deletion by some “troll.” *Do trolls serve to actualize our hidden insecurities regarding the internet/democracy?* I think there is a tendency for the creative colloboration to reverse into merely managing the ‘liminal space’ of information.
To further stimulate this (one-sided?) conversation, I read Thomas J. Nelson’s article “Writing in the Wikishop: Constructing Knowledge in the Electronic Classroom.” He discusses the benefits of modeling classroom-writing off of Wikis because it augments the notion of “constantly changing knowledge structures…reveal[ing] the constructed nature of knowledge.” This type of “wikiShop” writing “introduces open writing, (de)Authorizes a text, creates fluid and dynamic texts, and creates real rhetorical circumstances.”
Overall, I think Nelson hit on the advantages of wiki-writing with considerable precision. Ultimately, I’m not sure if I agree with his assessment of knowledge as “knowledge via cirulation,” i.e. “social-epistemic.” When we enter a conversation online, we do just that–we’ve encountered a subject already with limits and definitions, and the construction itself is shared, thereby making it not completely one’s own. I certainly believe that life is a social adventure, and knowledge, by and large, is acquired through shared experiences. However, to repeat the above concern, when we go onto a medium (e.g. the Internet) and participate in a conversation, have we already skipped past important creative elements of meaningful knowledge creation, such as durations of time spent alone, unmediated by technology?
I promise—I actually really like Wikipedia! I use it everyday… and my brain isn’t mush yet 🙂