19.379 Wikipedia

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 05:38:27 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 379.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: "Prof. R. Sussex" <sussex_at_uq.edu.au> (42)
         Subject: Re: 19.376 Wikipedia

   [2] From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com> (9)
         Subject: Re: 19.376 Wikipedia

         Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 05:34:09 +0000
         From: "Prof. R. Sussex" <sussex_at_uq.edu.au>
         Subject: Re: 19.376 Wikipedia

Another angle on the Wikipedia question has to do with whether it is
transparent / neutral as to culture, knowledge-base and so on. Many
national encyclopaedias have detectable national biases; the
Britannica changed flavour when it crossed the Atlantic; Funk and
Wagnall's could not have been composed in Europe; encyclopaedias
under the old Soviet Union were definitely ideologically filtered. And so on.

There *is* a tendency among the reading public to genuflect before
dictionaries and encyclopaedias. In my case at least, my critical
distancing (Verfremdung?) is related to my competence. So I will
approach dictionaries of the languages that I know with a healthy
scepticism; but if it's a language that I don't know so well, I tend
to be more trusting.

Wikipedia here has a certain ambivalence. It isn't as structurally
disciplined as regular printed sources, so one has to read it with
more critical engagement. I wonder whether reading Wikipedia is a
different kind of intellectual activity from reading a regular
'pedia. There *are* intermittent biases, and one needs to be alert to
them. It's worth asking to what extent a wide contributor base has a
smoothing function, and if so, in which cultural / knowledge-base the
smoothing is occurring.

Roland Sussex
Professor of Applied Language Studies
School of Languages and Comparative Cultural Studies
The University of Queensland
Queensland 4072
University's CRICOS provider number: 00025B
Office: Greenwood 434 (Building 32)
Phone:  +61 7 3365 6896
Fax:    +61 7 3365 6799
Email:  sussex_at_uq.edu.au
Web:    http://www.arts.uq.edu.au/slccs/index.html?page=18094&pid=19591
School's website:
Applied linguistics website:
Language Talkback ABC radio:
Web:    http://www.cltr.uq.edu.au/languagetalkback/
Audio:  from    http://www.abc.net.au/hobart/stories/s782293.htm
         Date: Sun, 30 Oct 2005 05:35:34 +0000
         From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com>
         Subject: Re: 19.376 Wikipedia
Well, I'll say this -- Wikipedia is so peculiar and untrustworthy
that if I should be so unfortunate as to read it, I ALWAYS check its
statements elsewhere.
  >In exactly what way is this a 'bizarre suggestion'? A reference should
by no means be taken as an atomic truth--it is just that, a pointer to
previously published content that agrees with or sheds more light on
whatever it is pointed to from--and certainly doesn't exist as an
isolated dictum or preclude itself from making further references up the
Received on Sun Oct 30 2005 - 01:55:13 EST

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