Wikipedia: Living History

To many, Wikipedia has the taint of being  a folk source, subject to all the vagrancies and deviations that can be associated with the public making up its mind [just look at the heat and friction at the Town Hall meetings and discussions on Heath Care this past Summer]. So the report by the NYTimes about how Wikipedia “covered” the unprecedented “You are a liar” outburst by Republican Congressman Joe Wilson was not just timely but also a fascinating glimpse into how Wikipedia as a source of the People’s Knowledge and History  is now functioning.<br>

First and most importantly, this past Summer Wikipedia has limited who can do the final edits on any persons still living. This clearly worked as a damper in this case as Wikipedia had many reactions – and some roller coater wavering but appears to have arrived at a reasonable statement on Congressman Joe Wilsons record. The other critical factor is that Wikipedia has tightened its required references policy. First, the rules are tighter on when and second how “reliable” the references are. Again, it appears a)that these rules mattered and shaped the debate and b)provided opportunity for wider contexts to make the “final draft”. <hr>

These matters are not small. As the NYTimes article points out:“Roughly 60 million Americans visit Wikipedia every month. It is the first reference point for many Web inquiries — not least because its pages often lead the search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing.” Takethe5th as a blog is very assiduous in having many links so readers can do the fact checking for themselves on the articles and opinions expressed here. Takethe5th has used Wikipedia as a model with one exception – the links are embedded right in  article and not collected at the bottom like references in thesis or university dissertation. <hr>

But the broader point is very important, the Wikipedia has taken over from  newpapers, magazines and scholarly journals more of  the role of Living History keepers. It is  a marriage made in the Heaven of Progress in Technology – for better, for worse.

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