Wikipedia is an interesting open-source encyclopedia to consult and use when researching topics of interest such as Digital Humanities. The website was created in 2001 and has since been updated and has had new content added frequently on various topics. Wikipedia is a site that anyone can edit and add content on any page. My main concern with the website is how valid and accurate are the various edits and changes. The site has improved concerning the accuracy of its information. I would never cite a Wikipedia article in a research paper or academic article purely because of the above idea. Nevertheless, it is an important tertiary source to lead a researcher and scholar to accurate information within primary and secondary sources.
A researcher should skim a Wikipedia article in order to learn a new topic as well as obtain background information on when the article was created. Before analyzing a Wikipedia article I read “Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past” by Dr. Roy Rosenzweig located here that outlined how Wikipedia relates to historians and our work. Historians need to be engaged with digital scholarship as well as other forms of digital media such as Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be a useful place to find information with the click of a button. Nevertheless, it is up to the user to discern whether the information they read is true and factually accurate.
When evaluating a Wikipedia article you need to ask when was the site created, updated, and who has frequently contributed to the specific page? For the purpose of this blog post, I analyzed the Wikipedia article Digital Humanities located here.
First, you should click on the top-right header entitled “View History” to analyze the article’s revision history. The above page was created on January 30, 2006, and has been subsequently revised as of its most recent revision on October 19, 2020. The page maintains a record of individuals who have made edits and changes over time. You should pay attention to who has made edits as well as their credentials and consult their published articles, books, and other media if you want to learn more about a specific topic. The reader should remain skeptical about edits made by unknown accounts or other accounts that have not demonstrated even a beginner knowledge of a specific topic. Wikipedia is only as reliable as the credentials of researchers and editors behind the pages. Various early edits to the digital humanities Wikipedia article were made by Elijah H Meeks, a Digital Humanities specialist at Stanford University, and Dr. Gabriel Bodard, a Reader of Digital Classics at the Institute of Classical Studies through the University of London.
After asking what credentials do various editors have when they revise articles you should begin to read sections of the article that interest you as well as subsequent concluding sections such as References, Bibliography, External Links, and Further Reading. You can subsequently select the “Talk” header on the top right of the Wikipedia article next to “Article” The Talk page is an interesting tool to learn more about how the editors visualize how the page will look, the information will be displayed, and how they will convey the most accurate information to the reader.
Wikipedia is an enormous free encyclopedia that contains five pillars that make up the website. The reader should consult these pillars before he begins to analyze an article. They are located here. The pillars describe what Wikipedia is and act as a double-edged sword. They spell out the rules of the site as well as state anyone can edit a particular page regardless of credentials. In my opinion, this creates a problem where entire pages or sections of pages can be changed to depict inaccurate information and harm the researcher through the incorrect information. The pillars state that Wikipedia should be written from a neutral view but subsequently allow anyone to edit an article without a system of submitting credentials for certification.
The good news is that all revisions are saved through Wikipedia so an individual could skim and scan through past revision dates to bring the correct information to the public again. The reader should use the above means of the view history and talk headers to assess the content and factual accuracy of any Wikipedia article they read. I have encountered inaccurate information on Wikipedia articles from the history of U.S. Reconstruction to Neuroscience among other articles that bridge the gap between the Humanities and STEM education. The ability for anyone to edit Wikipedia presents an avenue of free and open-source information but that power can bombard the diligent editor when they encounter additional editors who deliberately write and edit inaccurate information. I read the article “Encyclopedia Frown” by writer and software engineer David Auerbach. It is an interesting read on his journey with Wikipedia’s editing function. I have not experienced that level of misinformation. His article is located here. I agree that there is a gender imbalance in who edits Wikipedia articles as well as how information is displayed. I uncovered a Jstor article that explains more on the topic located here,
Wikipedia has its fair share of biased articles and webpages edited through the eyes and credentials or lack of credentials from those who edit articles through their own name or an anonymous screen name. It is your obligation as the reader to think critically about the information you read.
Wikipedia is useful to historians, researchers, scholars, and individuals who desire to learn something new. Its ability that allows anyone to edit a page further stresses the importance of critical thinking, fact-checking, and reading a variety of sources on a specific topic.