Wikipedia Has a Discussions Section? Who Knew?

As I became more accustomed to the HASTAC forum Democratizing Knowledge I started to feel more comfortable responding to other people’s comments. A HASTAC scholar named Claire posed some questions and ideas about Wikipedia. Here’s just a sample of what she said in her post :

I have been thinking of Wikipedia throughout the discussion. This is an example of a place where the world community can exchange knowledge. However, it is seen as unreliable and is not accepted as a valid reference. Despite this fact, I know that I, and many of my friends, often check Wikipedia to get background information or an understandable description of course topics. One of the benefits of Wikipedia and shared digital communities is the accessible language that can be understood by multiple people with different levels of education.

Claire went on to talk about Wikipedia’s discussion page which was brought up earlier in the forum by another scholar.  Here is my response to Claire (the quotations are from a post Claire made previously):

Claire I like what  you discussed about Wikipedia. It really got me thinking.

“I have never been drawn to the discussion sections of Wikipedia. I viewed them as containing opinions about the subject, rather than debates about the reliability of article contents. Now I am motivated to check these pages out. Yet, even when experts post points and discussions on the site, can anyone really know if the author really has the credentials described? I guess I am always slightly wary about information on the internet, because individuals can easily use false identities on the Web.”

 I too never have explored the discussion section of Wikipedia. I find it strange that I never have but I believe it come down to your last sentence when you discuss your apprehension towards information on the internet. If as a whole we are so worried about information on the internet I wonder then how is Wikipedia so successful and widely used? Academically, Wikipedia is always condemned for its inconsistencies, or the human error element in the online encyclopedia, yet it is still used frequently as background source.

I must be honest I didn’t even know this discussion page existed, so I went and checked it out. What I found made me understand why I had never been there in the first place. The page is confusing, not that well-organized and seems like obsolete technology now with Facebook and Twitter. Check out the page for yourself and let me know what you think. Is Twitter and Facebook mini-feed what Wikipedia was trying to accomplish? Or are the three participatory media sites completely different? Do we expect different things from all three? Do we not expect to discuss things in an online encyclopedia like we would in social networking sites?

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