Wikipedia Debate Redux

AHP’s most commented-upon entry to date has been the February 1 post on the addition of significant amounts of material on the medieval Muslim scientist al-Haytham (Al Hazen) to the Wikipedia entry on the history of psychology [link fixed]. Some of the most interesting parts of that debate had to do with the development of Wikipedia as a resource. Although once anathema to many academics, Wikipedia’s sheer pervasiveness (and its surprisingly high, if still not perfect, level of accuracy) have led some to call for a change in tactics — using our scholarly skills to improve it rather than shunning it and forbidding our student from using it.

Now Inside Higher Ed has published a commentary by Mark A. Wilson (Coll. of Wooster, Geology) in which academics are called upon to “embrace” Wikipedia.

I propose that all academics with research specialties, no matter how arcane (and nothing is too obscure for Wikipedia), enroll as identifiable editors of Wikipedia. We then watch over a few wikipages of our choosing, adding to them when appropriate, stepping in to resolve disputes when we know something useful. We can add new articles on topics which should be covered, and argue that others should be removed or combined. This is not to displace anonymous editors, many of whom possess vast amounts of valuable information and innovative ideas, but to add our authority and hard-won knowledge to this growing universal library.

At the time of this posting, two commenters on Wilson’s column were “pro” and one “con.”

About Christopher Green

Professor of Psychology at York University (Toronto). Former editor of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences. Creator of the "Classics in the History of Psychology" website and of the "This Week in the History of Psychology" podcast series.