Documenting Wikipedia

I am currently in the midst of the most recent version of my Wikipedia Project in my composition classes, and as usual, I’m pretty excited about the level of reflection that my students are bringing to their analyses of crowdsourced information production. When teaching the project, I have sought to adopt a “Wikipedia neutral” position, explaining that I see Wikipedia as a complex artifact within web culture. But now that I have done the project three (or maybe four) times, it is starting to feel a little stale.

Thankfully, a new documentary, Truth in Numbers, looks like it will offer a fresh–and highly accessible–perspective on the widely used encyclopedia.  I haven’t yet seen the film–although given that is available via streaming access, I will soon–but the trailer addresses one of the concerns that many of my students only partially grasp, and that is the question about anonymous users. While they recognize that anonymity potentially harms the writer’s credibility, they are less attentive to the idea that individuals or corporations could edit information on the site in a way that supports their own financial or ideological interests.

As Cinematical notes, the film also traces Jimmy Wales’ role as a “benevolent dictator” in shaping the editorial policy of Wikipedia.  For those of you interested in Web 2.0 issues, this might be worth a look.

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