May 14th, 2006

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09:52 pm - on Wørds and Wisdom... (and a little about Women at the end)

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on Wørds and Wisdom... (and a little about Women at the end) - graffiti.maverick

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From: ludimagist Date: May 17th, 2006 - 05:31 pm (Link)

I guess I should check in as well

It's funny, I had a few RL discussions about this recently. My own experience, which fits into the general consensus, is that when I read articles on subjects that I have researched extensively I find them to be full of errors.

Lately I'm fairly invested in historiography and archival research, niether of which Wikipedia is any good for. Last semester when I saw it in the bibliography of a conference paper and told one of my favorite profs about it h nearly went into shock. I don't know of any serious scholar who would write a Wikipedia entry, and if they did I doubt it would have any place on an academic CV.

At the moment I'm actually contracted to write a couple encyclopedia articles for an academic press. The fact checking and editing that I have to go through is pretty intense, and this is by experts, not by random people on the internet.

I know you said you don't need to write academic papers (though you will if you do go back to grad school), but what it comes down to is trusting experts vs. trusting hobbyists. If you're reading up on Harry Potter fandom, by all means go for it, in that case the hobbyists are the experts and there is not all that much that is "information" as such. I see it as a sort of "folk knowledge." Many of the entries on theater look like they were written by excited undergrads who just took their first history course and are still regurgitating myths, and a lot of the martial arts entries look like their primary source of information was Black Belt magazine.

I have used it to look up the rules of Yut when I was given a set as a gift, but I wouldn't look at it if I were about to give a lecture on Commedia del Arte, except maybe to refresh myself on some of the common misconceptions.

You make a case that sounding informed is more important than being informed, while I know you're (sorta) joking (thank you Mr. Colbert), I also know that if you actually wanted accurate information you would make a serious effort to look for it.

For a few more viewpoints, there was a discussion in my journal about this a while ago that's here:

That linked to this discussion that I started here:
[User Picture]From: chrismaverick Date: May 17th, 2006 - 06:00 pm (Link)

Re: I guess I should check in as well

You make a case that sounding informed is more important than being informed, while I know you're (sorta) joking (thank you Mr. Colbert), I also know that if you actually wanted accurate information you would make a serious effort to look for it.

Actually, I don't mean to make that case at all really. Maybe slightly in jest. My real point is more along the lines of what Katherine is discussing back and forth with Max in comments above. That being the post-modern definition of knowledge. It's not about sounding smart. If it was, we'd just use lots of big words and not care what they meant. It's about having an understanding of what society at large considers the truth to be, which for most (maybe not all) practical purposes is somewhere between indistinguishable from and better than the truth anyway.
From: ludimagist Date: May 17th, 2006 - 06:42 pm (Link)

those who believe absurdities tend to commit atrocities

Yeah, I looked through that discussion too. Max is wise.

What's the practical purpose you want to use the information for?

Using what "society at large" considers to be true is useful in politics and advertising, and maybe as a study in anthropology. We can invade a country or try to exterminate or subjugate a people based on the opinions of "society at large."

I like to be optimistic and assume that the average educated adult knows not to believe everything they read. I am not so optimistic as to think that they won't believe the things that they want to believe even if they're ridiculous.

Something like Wikipedia serves to let people write what they want to be true and present it as authoritative. In some cases it doesn't really matter as the stakes are not all that high. People don't generally live or die based on movie fandoms. But if someone were to look for legal advice on there, or medical advice, then we have some problems.

When you're talking "society at large," you're mostly talking about a lot of people not as smart as you. When you're talking about the people who respond to you here, it's more of an intellectual peer group which has a diverse enough knowledge base to be able to spot innaccuracy if you did repeat it.

Now, to some extent this isn't even completely about Wikipedia as it is about encyclopedias in general. That's a (very modernist) genre with all kinds of issues, both good and bad. There was a study recently that came to the conclusion that Wikipedia was slightly more accurate than Brittanica. This is not a credit to Wikipedia so much as a slam on Brittanica. I would question any assignment handed in to me that used any general encyclopedia as a primary source. We're back into general vs. specific knowledge again. If someone used The Cambridge Guide to Theatre, that would be somewhat more acceptable, but then it's much more about a place to start than a place to end.

So yeah, the question is really what use you have in mind for what you read. You're not writing for society at large. Not on here anyway. So why give their consensus any priviledge?
From: ludimagist Date: July 3rd, 2006 - 06:58 pm (Link)

a couple recent articles on this topic, just for the record


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