Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Newspapers and encyclopedias

I am trying to establish connections between last week's class and the readings this week. And am quite amazed by how similar the evolution of newspapers and dictionaries/encyclopedias has been- the initial confusion regd. form/content, the belief that these documents must contain objective and 'correct' information and the suspicion attached to linking the documents with commercial houses. What was different (and this almost certainly has to do with the nature of the document) was the acceptance of subjectivity in newspaper journalism with time. I get a sense from the readings (and even otherwise), that the popular perception of encyclopedias/dictionaries retains the 'objectivity' and 'correctness' focus to a much greater degree than it does for newspapers.

So, the question is, does this influence the newspaper-blog and the dictionary/encyclo-wikipedia relationships and make them different ? i.e. Does newspaper journalism's acceptance of subjectivity affect the authority/acceptability/importance of blogs? Does the perception of dictionaries/encyclopedias as repositories of 'objective' knowledge undermine the acceptance of wikis (with their many unknown contributors) as authoritative sources ? And if it does not, how not? (In fact, this is probably the more interesting question!)

2 Comments:

Blogger Paul Duguid said...

One question that follows from this is, if the way in which these traditional forms came into being was similar, should we expect the way in which they--I was going to write "go out of being" but that has multiple problems, so let me say something more neutral--change in the future should be similar?

And, on the point of neutrality and looking forward to next week, it's worth noting Wikipedia's view of neutrality, or what it calls NPOV , which its founder regards as "absolute and non-negotiable".

Again, I encourage you to consider editing an article on which you know something. The experience is helpful, particularly in trying to consider quality and negotiate the NPOV issue.

10:36 AM  
Blogger bjorn said...

I read a couple of interesting blogs and articles prior to and after the class, and here are some references to some articles that I found on the web:

Emigh and Herring (2005 for the HICSS): "Collaborative Authoring on the Web: A Genre Analysis of Online Encyclopedias. "
The quality of the paper was decent, and they use Yates and Orlikowski as well as Giddens. Their main conclusion is: "We might expect to find evidence of increasing formality and homogeneity across the lifespan of a Wikiepedia entry, as well as differences in formality between beginning and exprienced contributors, but relatively little change acorss the lifespan of an Everything2 entry."

Another interesting article was:
Stvilia, Twidale, Gasser and Smith (submitted to ICKM05)."Information quality discussions in Wikipedia"
In this paper they discuss various dimensions to evalute quality from, and I used some of them when I was writing the assignment. Their main conclusion is: "The study shows that the Wikipedia community takes issues of quality very seriously. Although anyone can participate in editing articles, the results are carefully reviewed and discussed, in ways very similar to open source programming projects."

Two interesting blogs were:
http://freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=676 on When Wikipedia Converges

and

http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/ethan/2004/11/27
On page 2 of 5 the topic is "What does Wikipedia Want to Be?"
The author refers to how former Editor in Chief of Encyclopedia Britannica (Robert McHenry) conducted a case study to "support his general thesis that Wikipedia suffers from being a work by commitee, rather than the work of individual scholars, and is a product of a questionable model that invites anyone, regardless of experience, to participate in the creation, modification and editing of encyclopedia".

He then refers to what he calls the "crucial and entirely faith-based step: Some unspecified quasi-Darwinian process will assure that those writings and editings by contributors of greatest expertise will survive; articles will eventually reach a steady state that corresponds to the highest degree of accuracy".


Bjorn

4:41 PM  

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