Week 7: The Collaborative Web

Coming from the perspective of a teacher, Wikipedia is a very interesting topic. I remember being raised on “NEVER USE WIKIPEDIA AS A SOURCE, ANYONE CAN CHANGE THE INFORMATION” and I still see that attitude with my students today. I am personally a huge proponent of Wikipedia so I am constantly challenging my students ideas and attitudes towards Wikipedia, drawing attention to the references section and also asking them to attempt to edit a page. I feel like this attitude is too often drilled into students’ heads about Wikipedia that serves a deterrent when they should be using it as a launching point into any topic. I also ask them to count how many times they use Wikipedia on a normal day (something that I have begun to do and may have moved me to start donating during their fund drives).

Browsing the “talk” section for the JFK assassination page curiously resulted in very little discussion. I would have thought that such a controversial and highly contested topic would warrant a lively discussion, but Wikipedia makes it clear on the talk section that “This is not a conspiracy forum. It is an encyclopedia”, which must place those editing pages like this one in an odd position, using their own judgement to determine if edits are clarifying already presented information or if they are opening the discussion to different theories.

Looking at a topic like the Holocaust, it again seems to be very tightly regulated on edits made (again, many discussion being removed since they opened up controversies and conspiracies which Wikipedia wants to avoid) so many of the discussion focus on what terms are used, the largest discussion on what terms to use for disabled people targeted by the Nazis.

My students recently watched the movie “Malcolm X” and were interested in the relationship between Malcolm X and Elijah Muhammed, and looking at Elijah Muhammed’s talk page generated a great deal of discussion. There is discussion on the positive contributions made by the Nation of Islam since they are labeled as a hate group on their Wikipedia page. There is also discussion on the fact that there is no reference to his position towards Jewish people, a highly contested issue for the Nation of Islam and Louis Farrakhan today.



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