A Moral Lesson?

I admit it.  I was among the ranks of the naysayers and haters that recoiled at the very mention of Wikipedia.  How could I trust a resource to which anyone could contribute, delete, and edit information freely and without credentials?  What would keep out the loonies and vandals who are looking to get a thrill out of contributing deliberately inflammatory or erroneous entries?

Well, the answer is literally all around me.  Okay, not right now as I’m sitting at the computer by myself, but you know, people collectively is the answer.  Ironically, the very openness and accessibility that gave me pause turns out to be the solution to what I thought was a problem.  On Wikipedia anyone an everyone is an editor with full license to change entries, but why did I automatically jump to the conclusion that people would choose to change them for the worse?  Will Richardson, in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, addresses my exact concern when writes simply that “there are vastly more editors who want to make it right than those who want to make it wrong” (Richardson, 56).  So, I jumped to the above conclusion because of a nasty cynicism that I harbor within myself?  That I automatically expect the worst from people?  Perhaps.  That negativity, however, is being challenged and proven wrong in a meaningful way.  Is it possible that the phenomenon of Wikipedia provides, dare I say, a moral lesson?

It seems to me that by providing a concrete example of how a multitude of people collaborating on many topics can self-police entries and produce quality content, Wikipedia has achieved a tremendous feat.  It is a testament to the very idea of collaboration.  In a Platonic sense, it is perhaps the most perfect example of Collaboration-as-Form.  Now, maybe that’s a little much, but it definitely is a wonderful example of how “everyone together is smarter than anyone alone” (Richardson, 57).

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “A Moral Lesson?

  1. dcrovitz

    It is certainly counterintuitive, and speaks to how our assumptions about human nature, anonymity, and social responsibility can be wrong. You might be interested in such books as Clay Shirky’s _Here Comes Everyone_… there are also a couple of books out there about the Wikipedia phenomenon. It shouldn’t work. But it does, and in doing so it says something about what technology can allow people to demonstrate.

  2. Pingback: Reading Log Audit « Wandering Minds

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