Posted by: MandyS | April 19, 2013

Wikipedia…Friend or Foe?

Block 2, Week 10, Activity 1: Baker How I fell in love with Wikipedia

I was interested to read this article simply because I have rarely used Wikipedia for anything. The most I have used it is in relation to the MAODE for explanations about technology that I have no idea about. Having the various forum posts, I think I might be in the minority, which made me wonder why. I think the simple answer is that use of Wikipedia in legal circles is wholly frowned upon. It is regarded as being notoriously inaccurate and unreliable in respect of legal facts, and law students are actively encouraged to steer clear of it (not that they do mind; each year at least one will cite it as their own work!). I suppose lawyers are used to wholly accurate information (statute and case law is rigorously checked for errors before being disseminated), which then forms the basis of argument as to interpretation.

What struck me about the article is that despite it vastness, Baker identifies that the ‘good ones (posts) are made by a tiny percentage of contributors’, something I had not expected. I particularly liked Baker’s insight into the addictive nature of Wikipedia. Surely a strange addiction but Baker alludes to the possessive culture which contributors develop. I must admit, my own first experience of a Wiki back on H808 was my indignation at fellow students being able to potentially edit my material. In reality, however, none of us dared and I think that would be my view in relation to Wikipedia. Much as I sigh when I see the inaccuracies emanating from the law material, I wouldn’t dare to edit it. Why? it is not mine to edit. It would be like someone coming onto my blog and altering my thoughts.

I was also taken with the article Delete the wiki worries and get close to the edit, which promotes Wikipedia as a potential learning tool amongst students. Bizarrely, I can see the merits in students being able to use material to engage in ‘scholarly debate’. What better way for a student to learn that by being able to determine what is inaccurate and why.

For me, the policy changes are simply an attempt to ‘up its image’ thereby promoting itself as a serious academic source. Given that the introduction of ‘pending changes’ only applies to those pages subject to ‘heavy vandalism,’ I fail to see any real benefits as it is likely that the majority of pages will still suffer indiscriminate editing. In any event, as a legal source of information, Wikipedia will always be wholly inaccurate and unreliable and never progress into the ‘legal authority’ category no matter how many policy changes it might endure.

 

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