Wikipedia – a new era in humanity’s curation of knowledge


Wikipedia – a new era in humanity’s curation of knowledge

Speaker: Pete Forsyth, Principal with Wiki Strategies

Topic: Wikipedia – a new era in humanity’s curation of knowledge

Abstract: Wikipedia is an unheralded winner of the information age. It is arguably the most widely-read publication in history. Its hundreds of language editions boast many millions of articles, with topics ranging from aardvark to zydeco — including millions that you would never have even thought you might find in an encyclopedia as recently as the 1990s.

But as we celebrate Wikipedia?s 15th anniversary, the headline of its story isn?t about a merely bigger, more comprehensive publication; it?s about a truly unprecedented production process that permits hundreds of thousands of people to work alongside one another — in many cases, without so much as language in common.

Before the advent of wiki software in 1995, the idea of a publication without a central editorial authority was difficult to imagine. Before Wikipedia was founded in 2001 — initially, as an offshoot and ?feeder? for an online encyclopedia with a traditional production model — wiki-based web sites were built by small communities, who typically blended content and discussion about a topic into the same page.

Today?s Wikipedia has an extensive documentation of policies and guidelines. There are formalized processes for electing administrators, deciding which articles should be deleted and which should be promoted as the best examples of its content, and resolving disputes. Its technology and policy framework combine to create a unique, and uniquely productive, system for organized collaboration and peer production.

Wikipedia?s role has encroached on those of institutions like universities, news organizations, museums, and archives. But it is not in Internet startup seeking to disrupt institutions for financial gain; it?s run by a loose-knit international community of passionate volunteers seeking to grow the world?s knowledge. Volunteers are united by a set of principles, not by a profit motive. In recent years, the connections between Wikipedia and more traditional institutions have come to the fore. Can a university engage with Wikipedia to better educate its students, while simultaneously improving its articles? Can a news organization do better reporting through Wikipedia engagement? Can a museum further its reach by improving Wikipedia articles about its holdings? These are the kinds of questions that will push Wikipedia — and humanity?s curation of knowledge — into a new era.

This talk took place on Tuesday, January 26, 2016 @ 6 PM in EB2 1231 on NC State’s Centennial Campus.