19.365 Wikipedia

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 08:09:27 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 365.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Gabriel BODARD <gabriel.bodard_at_kcl.ac.uk> (22)
         Subject: Re: Wikipedia

   [2] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (37)
         Subject: imitation and independence

         Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 08:02:56 +0100
         From: Gabriel BODARD <gabriel.bodard_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: Re: Wikipedia

Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com> wrote:

> A bizarre suggestion -- don't use a reference work unless you are
> prepared to use other reference works.

Or rather, don't use this reference work unless you are prepared to follow its
references. Don't confuse the Wikipedia with the Encyclopedia Britannica and
then complain when it isn't. The Wikipedia is a useful first stop, and some
questions are answered on the first stop. Some questions are sufficiently
important that I wouldn't trust the Encyclopedia Britannica or Oxford Classical
Dictionary to give me a full, reliable answer: but they will give me a starting
point and hopefully some references. I don't see what's bizarre about that.

Gabriel BODARD
Inscriptions of Aphrodisias
Centre for Computing in the Humanities
King's College London
Kay House
7, Arundel Street
London WC2R 3DX
Email: gabriel.bodard_at_kcl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)20 78 48 13 88
Fax: +44 (0)20 78 48 29 80
         Date: Wed, 26 Oct 2005 08:06:23 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: imitation and independence
I'd suppose that no self-aware scholar would put all of his or her
weight on an entry in an encyclopedia or in any similar reference
work, whatever the medium, without checking further. One goes, say,
to the Oxford Latin Dictionary with a high degree of trust that one
will find a trustworthy account of a word, but if a weighty argument
turned on what the lexicographer wrote, one would be unwise to stop
there, esp if the argument concerned, say, the degree to which the
word could be used figuratively in a poetic context. One would take
the advice given and consider it, but would it be wise to trust a
lexicographer totally with a poetic judgement? I wouldn't, and if I
were the lexicographer, I would hope that my judgement wouldn't be
thus blindly trusted.
For Wikipedia and all other digital tools the real issue at stake, it
seems to me, is what we think they're for, individually and collectively.
It seems reasonable to suppose that the print medium might
consciously be deployed for uses to which it is well adapted, and
that the same would happen, once we come to our senses, for the
digital medium. In *Buch, Bibliothek, und geisteswissenschaftliche
Forschung*, translated and adapted by John J Boll as *In Close
Association: Research, Humanities, and the Library*, Bernhard Fabian
argues that, "In view of the overabundance of literature and the
development of new media and methods of distribution, a new
hierarchical structure of publication formats seems unavoidable"
(1998: 4). That seems so obviously right to me that I wonder if
there's really an argument here at all. The question, it seems to me,
is hierarchy with respect to what kind of difference(s), and once we
have that in mind, then we start arguing about the distance on this
great chain of being between one kind of publishing and the next up
or down. And do we not begin by asking how the particular
characteristics of the media in question help us to place each in the
Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Wed Oct 26 2005 - 03:15:36 EDT

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