Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 389. Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London Hosted by King's Digital Lab www.dhhumanist.org Submit to: firstname.lastname@example.org  From: Jim Rovira
Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.387: the question on Wikipedia (14)  From: Ken Friedman Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.387: the question on Wikipedia (191) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2019-01-26 13:46:00+00:00 From: Jim Rovira Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.387: the question on Wikipedia I think we should perhaps think of Wikipedia articles as, ideally, striving to present its information as thoroughly as possible at a high school level — or maybe 100/200 level college — survey of the subjects. In terms of purpose, that’s no different from a print encyclopedia, even though the process by which it does this work is very different. The only way to ensure that desired level of objectivity is through a peer review board for each article made up of experts on the subject. Wikipedia would have to be discriminating in terms of who gets final editorial say, and it’s not. Final editorial say is more dependent on community standing than expertise. But, then, would it still be a Wiki? Jim R -------------------------------------------------------------------------- Date: 2019-01-26 10:41:29+00:00 From: Ken Friedman Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.387: the question on Wikipedia Dear Bob, Tim, and All, Thank you for your thoughts. I don't have much to add to what I've already written. I do want to offer two minor footnotes. 1) Bob Kosovsky wrote, > Wikipedia does > not accept one's original research unless it has been published, and even > then, there are obviously concerns as to whether one is promoting one's > original research. and > themselves. And indeed, I've heard the heads of the Wikimedia Foundation > articulate that Wikipedia is not supposed to be solely a passive > interaction but is best when people feel empowered to edit. > > If one's response is "I don't have enough time" - then whose problem and > responsibility are those weak articles? My questions on Wikipedia emerged in response to the problems of a colleague who did a good-faith effort to improve a few articles. While this took place in his own research field, this was not original or new research. Every improvement was a direct quote or a careful paraphrase from reliable published sources. The additions were all published in peer-reviewed journals, with a few items from books by university presses and academic presses. All quotes and comments were attributed to the original authors, though a few mundane facts were simply referenced. I described his experience in my long note. This person took the time to carefully improve selected articles. All of his edits were erased by a universal revert from the administrator who took issue with his efforts on to add external links to a series of articles on the same subject. While he queried the administrator on his talk page, the administrator simply repeated his edict without addressing the questions. The administrator stated that he would be blocked (banned) for life until he could somehow persuade the administrator that he had learned from his mistake and would only in the future make what the administrator deemed constructive edits. My friend *used to have time* for Wikipedia. He was disempowered by an administrator who refuses to discuss his questions. He is not responsible for the future of Wikipedia's weak articles in his field. Tim Smithers discussed the issue of Wikiality quoting a Wikipedia article that mentions Imre Lakatos, Thomas Kuhn, and Michael Polanyi on truth by consensus. According to the article > "In philosophy, truth by consensus is the process of taking > statements to be true simply because people generally agree > upon them. Imre Lakatos characterizes it as a "watered > down" form of provable truth propounded by some > sociologists of knowledge, particularly Thomas Kuhn and > Michael Polanyi." Tim goes on to state > In other words, 'Wikiality' is just the Common version of the > Posh term 'Truth by consensus.' Lakatos, Kuhn, and Polanyi, > are widely accepted, I think, as having done good Posh > scholarship, no? I'm sure the known-to-be-reliable Great > Britannica will tell us this. > According to the Wikipedia article, it seems to be the case that Wikiality is a version of truth by consensus. And it is certainly true that Lakatos, Kuhn, and Polanyi were major scholars in the philosophy of science. But it is not the case that any of these three argued in favour of truth by consensus. All of them recognised that consensus plays a role in the development of how any group of people see things -- but that is not the same as saying that consensus is a reliable index of truth. Polanyi, Kuhn, and Lakatos each had his own set of views on the philosophy of knowledge and the philosophy science. Their views differed, and each of these three developed and stated his views on difficult and subtle issue in a wide range of articles and books, along with talks, seminars, and conference papers. Polanyi was a working scientist in chemistry and physical chemistry. Many scientists regarded his work as brilliant, and he was nominated for the Nobel Prize, twice in chemistry, once in physics. Many believe that he would have won the prize if he had not switched fields to focus on philosophy and the social sciences. (Two of Polany's doctoral students went on to win the Nobel Prize, as did his son.) Polanyi's view of personal knowledge -- and of truth -- states that our personal commitments and position affect our scientific practices and theories. But this is different to the notion that participating in a consensus establishes what is true. Thomas Kuhn began his career as a physicist before moving over to the history and philosophy of science. He acknowledged the role that consensus plays in establishing scientific paradigms and the role of changing consensus in shifting those paradigms. His views changed several times over the years, but I would say that he generally described truth by consensus as a social process. That said, he seems to have used the word "paradigm" in several dozen different ways, so it is occasionally difficult to know what he meant. Lakatos was a mathematician and physicist who didn't seem to practice science, though he taught it. He moved over to the philosophy of sciences becoming an influential figure when he moved to the UK. I've only dipped into Lakatos's work, so I can't say what he felt about truth by consensus. Polanyi and Kuhn recognised consensus as a social phenomenon, but they would have disagreed with the notions of Wikiality and truthiness as useful approximations to truth. Britannica has a short biographical article on Kuhn but none on Lakatos or Polanyi. Wikipedia has articles on all three. The Wikipedia articles aren't bad. Even so, they could be better. The Polanyi article was flagged for improvements in 2011: "This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. (April 2011)" I have a fairly large collection of work on Polanyi. If I had any confidence that investing the time to make these improvements would result in lasting change, I'd spend the time to do it. Having been repeatedly reverted some years ago despite making cited edits based on reliable sources, I too am a discouraged contributor who will no longer take the time. For me the question is not the "posh" Britannica versus the "common" Wikipedia. It's only the question of hoping that Wikipedia might find a way to hold and improve responsible edits that follow Wikipedia rules rather than subject thoughtful contributions to endless churn -- including reversion by editors and administrators whose primary interest seems to be Wikilawyering and the incorrect enforcement of Wikipedia policies. Most folks who take the time to contribute and even those who will explain their contributions on the talk pages don't have the time or patience required to move through the endless rounds of argumentation and appeals once an administrator takes a dislike to them. If you don't mind a suggestion, the continued application of the terms "posh" and "common" may not reflect the true nature of Wikipedia. I'm not arguing for Britannica as the best possible encyclopaedia: I'm arguing that the articles comparing Wikipedia and Britannica have been poorly constructed and unfair. In contrast to an encyclopaedia written by selected authors and subject to careful fact-checking, anyone may write a Wikipedia entry. But not everyone can decide who will be blocked and banned. To me, the Wikipedia system has its own posh hierarchy, comparable to the class of British administrators who governed India after sailing port out and starboard home. It did not matter to them that they knew nothing of the actual conditions over which they presided, and it didn't matter whether they actually interpreted the laws correctly: they had the power to make whatever decisions they wished to make. Since the continual reference to a "posh" class against a "common" class has come up here again, I'm going to say that I see the Wikipedia administrator squirearchy as a posh class. It's hard to say what Michael Polanyi, Thomas Kuhn, or Imre Lakatos would have thought about Wikipedia. I think that Polanyi would have been fascinated -- perhaps he would have suggested ways to improve the Wikipedia system that might have been able to make a difference. No way to know about Kuhn. On one hand, he was interested in the great currents of his time, and Wikipedia is one of the great currents of our time. On the other, Kuhn could be extremely narrow in his interests. My guess is that Lakatos would not have cared at all. He seems to have been an intellectual elitist. He began as a Stalinist, though he later became an interesting and apparently charming teacher at the London School of Economics. His main interest was in speaking with his peers and students, so I doubt that he would have had an opinion on Wikipedia except to say that he found it deficient. At this point, I have nothing left to add about Wikipedia, so I won't contribute further. Once again, I use Wikipedia. I'd like it to be more reliable. In a perfect world, there would be some way to govern Wikipedia so that responsible edits took on cumulative weight for a better online encyclopaedia than is now the case. I do not see Encyclopaedia Britannica as an ideal encyclopaedia: I do see it as carefully edited and reliable with respect to the far more narrow range of articles that it offers. My personal favourites among online encyclopaedias are the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy for philosophy, and the free online edition of The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1907-1912) for theology and medieval history. Thanks to you all for sharing your thoughts -- including those who disagree with me, and from whose disagreements I learned a great deal. Yours, Ken Ken Friedman, Ph.D., D.Sc. (hc), FDRS | Editor-in-Chief | è®¾è®¡ She Ji. The Journal of Design, Economics, and Innovation | Published by Tongji University in Cooperation with Elsevier | URL: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/she-ji-the- journal-of-design-economics-and-innovation/ Chair Professor of Design Innovation Studies | College of Design and Innovation | Tongji University | Shanghai, China ||| Email email@example.com | Academia http://swinburne.academia.edu/KenFriedman | D&I http://tjdi.tongji.edu.cn -- _______________________________________________ Unsubscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted List posts to: firstname.lastname@example.org List info and archives at at: http://dhhumanist.org Listmember interface at: http://dhhumanist.org/Restricted/ Subscribe at: http://dhhumanist.org/membership_form.php
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