Wikipedia users for President

Franz Rosenzweig (August 6, 1950October 11, 2007), author of the article [1] discusses Wikipedia with regards to it's articles viability as historical analysis.


Historical Counter-Culture

The way in which Wikipedia articles evolve seems to be, at the onset of Rozenwieg's argument, antithetical to the traditional notion of historical writing; "Historical scholarship is also characterized by possessive individualism. Good professional practice (and avoiding charges of plagiarism) requires us to attribute ideas and words to specific historians... A historical work without owners and with multiple, anonymous authors is thus almost unimaginable in our professional culture... it would violate both copyright and professional norms."

Not only does Wikipedia's integration of authorship differ from traditional history, but it's supposed weakness as a freely-editable platform also seems to be blown out of proportion. Deliberate misinformation planted by individuals who were testing Wikipedia's ability to recover from vandalism showed that in some instances mistakes were fixed in three minutes, in other instances less than [2].

Potential Problems

It is interesting that the author addresses historical methods like the attempt of Wikipedia to prevent bias in some articles, and historians' claims that bias is supposed to be inherent in the interpretation of history by a historian. Furthermore, deliberate or accidental misinformation could plague a number of articles at any given moment; Cite error: Invalid tag;

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Wikipedia as a Solution

The best thing about Wikipedia, is that it doesn't pretend to be anything it's not. It and allows the free distribution of its non-copyrighted content for whatever purpose; Cite error: Invalid tag;

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Wikipedia is impermanent and malleable making it more of an evolutionary text rather than a particular history. As people's popular perceptions or interpretations of people and events change, so will Wikipedia. And, paradoxically, it may incite that change in popular perception or interpretation to begin with.

With regards to vandalism and misinformation however, just as easily as the articles themselves can be edited, so is the structure of the website - if the sites administrators were to incorporate the "history" of the page in a convenient way as to publish a fact-checked "accurate version" of an article, and allow users to see the most recently edited version as well, it would just add another level of confidence in the article.

Furthermore, the idea that Wikipedia is an acceptable source in academia in Britain though, is shocking, but a welcome evolution in it's legitimacy as a tool for public use. Regardless of if the article you are reading is true or not - or how accurate it is- its probably only enough for a shallow level of understanding of a particular subject - including the tendency of Wikipedia articles to contain trivial information. Until academics and scholars begin openly accepting Wikipedia as a platform through which to share and discuss interpretations of history, it may never be widely accepted as credible - but it will definitely be accepted as revolutionary.


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