All The More Reason

March 3, 2007, 6:57 pm
Filed under: Language

Wikipedia is appearing to get stronger and stronger. Here is a link to a language, which until ten minutes ago, I wasn’t even really aware of still existed as a spoken language. I realise that entries on Lindsey Lohan are probably as detailed as those of Haydn, but the perhaps unnecesary complexity of some articles doesn’t take away from the necessary and present detail of others.

Perhaps the following analogy has already been made, but wikipedia is certainly not the first foray into collective consciousness – for lack of a better term. The Oxford English Dictionary relied on the collective literary knowledge of the Anglosphere in comprising its debut edition. There is even a rather interesting book on the process, entitled The Professor and The Madman by Simon Winchester. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but if memory serves it details the relationship of one editor and an individual who contributed thousands of definitions of words to the dictionary (I wonder if there’s a French equivalent to this with the Academie Francaise?).

Clearly we live in a time where one individual could not contribute as many articles to wikipedia as Dr. William Chestor Minor once did for the OED. But we also live in a time where even though I may not have an aristotelian knowledge within me, a large portion of it is within my grasp. Thankfully, as wikipedia so wonderfully demonstrates, knowledge is made for sharing and needs not only one owner. Rumour and noise are also suitable for sharing, and it will be interesting to see what steps wikipedia takes to keep the oil and water distinguishable from each other.

Jonathan Smith


1 Comment so far
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There was a piece on Slate a week or so ago which claimed that something like 45% of Wikipedia’s ‘bulk’ is taken up by discussions and disputes between contributors. If you go to the page for, say, the state of Israel and click on ‘discussion’, you can see just what a fraught business reaching a consensus on ‘the truth’ can be.

Comment by Michael P

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