Past Event

Café Society: If You Looked Up Dinosaur in Wikipedia Would You Find a Picture of an Encyclopedia?

Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia, has exploded to well over a million full-length articles posted in English alone, and the count continues to climb. Wikipedia is the largest and most well known wiki project on the web, which is what makes this resource so unique. As the site’s slogan indicates, “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” the open source methodology and philosophy are central to Wikipedia’s operation and are both the site’s greatest strength and liability.

Because anyone can construct or edit an entry, it has been heralded as a beacon of anti-elitism and lauded for democratizing the flow of knowledge. Participation in the process is entirely free. Content, directly determined and evaluated by visitors, relies on both cooperation and competition between strangers for its success.

Critics argue that this anarchic approach to quality control is grossly irresponsible, leaving readers with few ways of distinguishing trustworthy sources from propaganda or outright lies. Where media companies employ reliable fact checkers, trained researchers and scholoars, many see little in the way of accountability from wikis. Is information dissemination best left to credentialed experts?

Does open source methodology sacrifice reliability for efficiency? As individuals, what criteria do we use when determining the credibility of information? Is the popularity of Wikipedia an indication of greater trust among the citizenry of each other? How do we imagine an information utopia?

Join us this week at Café Society to explore the world of wiki.

Suggested Readings:

For more informaiton, please contact Kristin Millikan at 312.422.5580.