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 — LiveJournal

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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?

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