Week 6 – Wikis & Collective Intelligence

Reading for this week:

1. Henry Jenkins,” What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About Media Literacies (Part Two)Confession of an Aca-Fan, The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. 20 June 2007

2. Brock Read, “Can Wikipedia Ever Make the Grade?“, The Chronicle of Higher Education. 27 October 2006

3. Daniel Terdiman, “Wikipedia Faces Growing Pains”, Wired: The Enterprise IT Guide. 01.10.05

Wiki is one form of the web content that is designed to facilitate writing and editing by as many people as possible. Wiki enable document to be written collectively and open the possibility for all the people to correct the mistakes, edit and verify the entire document. Wikipedia is the most prominent Wiki that growing rapidly since it born in 2001. It is already attracts at least 684 million visitors yearly by 2008. There are more than 75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 250 languages. As of today, there are 2,532,059 articles in English (www.wikipedia.org). This is one of the examples of what Pierre Levy stated as collective intelligence, “where no body knows everything, everybody knows something and what any member knows is available to the group as a whole at a moment notice” (check Jenkins’ text).

However, there is a long debate about accuracy and authority in Wikipedia. Reading for this week address some of the issues related with Wikipedia, as a form of Wiki.
To make this more interesting, check these videos to find out how exactly Wikis work:
Wetpaint Wiki in Plain Engish” and “Wiki in plain English

While reading the text, consider these questions:

1. What are the main differences between Wikipedia as a form of collective intelligence with expert paradigm and other traditional works? Do you think collective intelligence is the same with mass opinion?

2. What were the issues behind the growing tension between Wikipedia and academics?

3. What sort of argument that people use to question the Wikipedia accuracy?

14 thoughts on “Week 6 – Wikis & Collective Intelligence

  1. I tend to consider Wikipedia as a platform for ongoing discussions or arguments online. As such it is current and gets undated within short period of time. Therefore going back to the last question before we ended the discussion in the seminar, I do not think that wiki is a reliable source of reference for academic writing. As compared to newspaper article which is also current and up-to-date, articles in wiki are under constant public scrutiny. Newspaper articles are verified, edited and backed by publishers on the other hand. Still the public gets to see inaccurate information or reports occassionally.

    The element of research is an important consideration when comparing Wiki to traditional academics. The amount of work and research which go into academic writing as compared to the Wiki has a lot to say about reliablity. As pointed out by Ramfel during the Seminar, if a whole list of reference is quoted at the end of the article in Wiki, we tend to perceive it as being more reliable.

    I really enjoyed this seminar today. 3 cheers for Rouli!
    Can’t wait to read what the others have to say;-P

  2. Talking about Wikipedia as a resource in academic writing, I think I agree to one statement in our reading for this week, that Wikipedia can be treated as an entry point to more broad research sources. I did this several times. So when Tama said, most of the students starting point for searching information is Google, (and subsequently lead to Wikipedia) I am one of that “most of the students”. And to be honest, I found that very handy, because in Wikipedia sometimes they also stated name of the expert in one particular issue, so I can search that writer/ researher in Library database. But it doesn’t mean that I then make Wikipedia as one of the item in my references.
    I think we also never put encyclopedia or dictionary in our references. It is just the same case with Wikipedia. ☺

  3. yeap, Rouli. indeed, we can not put wikipeida as one of the item in our references. Basically, the expert paradigm culture still stands in a predominent domain. To some extent, it should control an unprecedented amount of knowleage in academic. As we know, Peter said, “experts are credentialized; they have gone though some kind of ritual which designated them as among those who have mastered a particular domain, most often through formal education.”

    for me, I trust the troditional encyclopedia- the form of book , even through, sometimes the renew of book was lag behind ,compared with online wiki, but the book should be graded and checked by the test and some researchers. it is worth of believing. Through, there is an example mentioning by the journal Nature, which published a study comparing the accuracy of scientific articles in Wikipedia and theEncyclopaedia Britanning. The result is an average Britannica article had about three errors, while a typical Wikipedia post on thesame subject had about four.

    Therefore, we must believe that we are people and we are not god, so it allows us to make mistake. you know both of the encyclopaedias have errors, why not we believe the one which make 4 errors instead of 3 errors.

  4. oh I just saw this sentence written by Mr. Halavais “Academic historians are more likely to spend their time working on projects that can earn them scholarly respect and career advancement than writing or editing Wikipedia. Wikipedia entries. Because of its transitory nature and its ban on original research. Wiki does not have a lot of credibility within the academy”. so this is the point that the wiki position still shakes but fixs.

  5. Well, I guess the main sceptism about wikipedia would be the ‘anybody’ aspect. This would theoretically mean that a 6 year old could post or make amendments to an article (assuming the content is accurate). Put it in another way, would our perceptions be different if wikipedia only allowed ‘established’ writers (i.e. professors in their field, experts, etc) to contribute? If so, why not place existing works (i.e. traditional journals, printed articles, etc) online in an environment similar to wikipedia and only allow the ‘experts’ to review and edit them? That way, the advantages of wikis would complement traditional journals and articles.

    On that point, I was wondering if it is REALLY necessary to adopt the ‘everyone can edit’ concept? I mean, wouldn’t it be sufficient that the current wikipedia environment be ‘reduced’ to a sort of ‘controlled’ environment where only academics could make amendments? There are so many academics and ‘experts’ in and around the universities worldwide – it would be sufficient to result in comprehensive articles I think. In short, I would say ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. There is certainly good in a mass effort, but as with most things in the world, marginal utility is gradually reduced with increasing quantities. Probably the current wikipedia environment has exceeded the optimum utility point.

    To be ‘constructive’, I would suggest that a good move would probably be to convert the current databases (of journals and articles) to a ‘wikipedia concept’ one where only academics who have contributed an article may edit others. For example, articles would go through the traditional process (maybe peer reviewed) before being published in a journal. The difference is that instead of stopping there, articles that have made it to traditional online databases would adopt a wikipedia concept (where it can be edited by other academics). Not sure it would work. But since we’re talking about wikis, I was thinking something ‘in between’ would be nice.

  6. I like your idea Alvin, and I agree with you obstensibly on your point that ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’. But it is based on the premise that only ‘academic’ subjects are on wikipedia. There would be topics on wikipedia that fall outside the realm of academic expertise. Who has the authority to create and comment on these?

  7. I personally like wikipedia very much. For wikipedia is ideal for many uses in my life. For instance, “what language is the most beautiful language in the world?” Just search for Wikipedia, it will give meu a comprehensive explanation, quick but readable. As the most popular online community, wikipedia is my first choice when I search for one topic.
    Overall, wikipedia is always considered a kind of collective intelligence. It is definitely of group knowledge. Because everyone can edit, it gives the encouragement for active participants to contribute the collective knowledge. There has one thing is mentioned in the reading, “The wikipedia can be a work of interdisciplinary.” As I understand, the contributors come from different academic areas; they are using different minds to approach the same problems from their own perspectives. How good thing it is!!! It is efficient way to fill the knowledge gap among each other!
    However, the problem has come out when wikipedia is everywhere. As we discussed in the class, should we rely on it? Especially, can we use Wikipedia for academic research?
    Personally, I do not want to against anyone in our group discussion; just want to show my own opinions. I think it is much better don’t be critical to other people anytime. On the contrary, we can be critical readers!!! It may be a good way to critically read through the passages on wikipedia if you wish to get some useful information from it, and I am sure it should has some valuable ideas you may agree with( from my personal experiences), you can collective them and do your own “academic research” in library and so on.
    So, please forgive my honest! guys

  8. Annaw77, you have a point there… I didn’t think about the issue of ‘non academic’ articles… On that note, I’m not even sure how an article would be ‘classified’ as ‘academic’ or ‘non academic’! 😛 I mean, say a topic on ‘how to clean up dog poo’ (pardon the extreme) may not be so ‘academic’ to laypersons, but an expert in cleaning technologies or micro-biology may just be able to write an article we most probably would not understand at all. 🙂

    The online article that you have referenced is a nice reminder to us that Wikipedia really needs to be ‘fine-tuned’ to be considered ‘reliable’. After all, ‘one man’s meat is another man’s poison’. People are not known to be ‘passive consumers’. It is not practical to assume that a person does not have an opinion or preference for certain issues. So for that reason, and the ‘openness’ concept, wikipedia seems to have quite a large flaw. Also, an ‘edit’ may not always be a ‘progress’ on the route to fine-tuning an article.

  9. Hey everyone

    I would like to start by apologising to Alvin. I just read my comment to you from last week again and realised that it could be interpret as a bit rude and agressive. It was not the purpose at all and it just comes to show how online communication is much more likely to be misunderstood than face to face communication ;).
    Secondly im sorry that I didn´t even read you comment properly and therefore criticised you for absolutely no reason….I am Sorry!
    I was not trying to start a fire or flame wall or… what is it called again?;)

    About Wikipedia: I just went to the website just now to have a look around to see what all the fuss is about;) and i thought it was really cool. I felt a bit like reading private notes sometimes though. I got the impression that a lot of the people who write on the articles know each other, and they probably do right? at least online.

    I wondered though. I thought that I as a user would have more choises when looking up something.
    Say, I type in the word “musik”…up comes a definition of the word or the concept. Then there are links to other articles about stuff thats related to music (which is great and also a bit dangerous since one could get lost and forget what she was actually looking for….that would be me)
    But I somehow got the impression that I could type in a word and then there would be not only one but a few articles defining the word, for me to pick from.
    Would that not make sense? I mean I thought the hole idea was to give the user as many options as posible and as many angles on one topic as posible.

  10. I think about Alvin’s idea of giving limited access to post or edit articles in Wikipedia and I thought it could be a form of regulation for this sort of online posting system.

    Also another point which Yanman tried to make with regards to readings based on wiki then further research to build on existing knowledge is a similar idea Rouli had mentioned. And I agree that it is a good starting point. Because the information may not be totally accurate but it provided a basis for investigation and academic research.

    I would like to revisit the issue of collective intelligence being what it is or just another form of mass opinion. Firstly, mass opinion is not an organised body of knowledge. It basically reflects the public opinion on various social or political issues. Others do not draw upon such opinion to draw conclusion on making decision or an argument. Collective intelligence on the other hand could exist either in online journals or articles for reference. As from the analogy given by Jenkins of the sand castle, collective intelligence does not get washed off by the ‘waves’ of society.

  11. Benedikte, no worries. 🙂 That’s a problem with online communication… Unless it’s with instant messaging, it’s sometimes hard to clarify stuff immediately. And even so, true emotions are hard to convey no matter how many 🙂 😛 😉 one puts… So no need for apologies. Haha… (pls try to visualise the sincere non-grudge laughter)! 🙂

    Anyway, to add onto tang12’s point, collective intelligence may evolve over time (and with knowledge). Could I say that collective intelligence would be ideas and issues by academics and people in the related field while mass opinion can come from anyone off the street? Opinions?

  12. May the force be with us guys! and the force is in the cyber world! lol Have you noticed that when we text or write something and send it to someone, sometimes the person getting the text misreads or misinterpret it? I guess thats what happened to Benedikte misreading Alvin’s text but it’s natural. I do misread things on text and online often especially those without commas, punctuations or periods at the end coz they can give a different meaning to what we try to convey and mean.

    Regarding this week’s seminar, it really took me time to write something here because I am adamant whether to write or not since everything has been discussed. Wikipedia has been a part of my cyber life since I knew it through a local news 3 years ago. The information we get is so convenient and arrives on our screens on a bolt of a second. When I was still in elementary, I could remember that I was the only one scanning everyday a very thick, old and dusty Encyclopedia Americana that even until Uni finishing my bachelors I browsed all the pages of the 4 sets of encyclopedia to my enjoyment. That is part of the narrative side of technology and now with wiki as part of the collective intelligence of manipulative media, it gives me more convenient chance to check on something interesting. What is good about wikis, that they are constantly updated so current events are part of information that you can surf on. I was dumb-founded when I googled my American friend’s name and wallahhh his profile is in wikipedia. I consider wikis as part of an evolution on how humans relay information, it may be on its infancy but it brought so much change on how we gather information online.

  13. Alvin…from your last question, I think there is confusion between academic or expert and ordinary people or “anyone off the street” in your comment.

    As far as I know, collective intelligence is a shared intelligence that comes out from the collaboration of many individuals, whether they are academics or not. In another words, collective intelligence, in my opinion, is where many people working together try to provide information or explain one particular issue as complete as possible to the public (i.e. all the people who need that information). Why need so many people? It’s because of what Jenkins state, “nobody knows nothing and everybody knows something”. Even the people who we call expert sometimes have limitation in their own individual knowledge, and information from other people will complete that gap. And when we talk about “popular knowledge” which far from academics realm, this collective intelligence will be a great way to fill all the gap of information that we can never find in academics textbook or another single sources.

    Let say, I want to know which Spielberg’s movie that have the longest running in cinema around the world. For this information, maybe (just hypothetically) I will never find in any textbook or maybe it will be so hard to find in magazine. But there are so many Spielberg fans around the world, who have all the complete information about the entire Spielberg movie. And it will become so much easier if all the people who have that particular knowledge working together to provide information compare to only one or two people. I think that is the example of collective intelligence.
    Any other explanation guys?

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