Wikipedia has proved to be a successful attack at what we call organised knowledge distribution systems employed by countries, companies and people with influence, money or power. It has successfully displaced the Encyclopedic, Scholastic publishing industry which were peer reviewed, screened by experts and authorities among other things. The point being that the level of influence and control employed by the authorities mattered and annoying information and research could be closed down and erased in an efficient manner.
Let’s examine the once all mighty system through a few examples. China’s famous tank man is a great example of how, a certain historic event, has been wiped out of the collective memories of a whole country or more importantly, over a billion minds. And how does one accomplish such a mammoth task, you ask? Academic institutions are usually the first target (Smriti Irani much?), followed by existing knowledge on the subject which is hidden, removed or deleted. And then comes online monitoring and management for new entries or old entries surfacing again.
India has its own set of examples where the Indo-China war is still having its own little continuation party on its Wikipedia page. Some days, the Chinese are the aggressors and others, its India. The problem is not lack of dependability of facts here, they never change. The problem is that all these individuals back their claims with references. Knowledge which otherwise would rarely see the light of day now is in front of the eyes of any mildly inquisitive reader. This provides a huge amount of information previously not shared or discovered.
Wikipedia forces you to examine facts, research opinions and their opinion makers, read as much as you can as there will never be a dearth of reading material and one has to understand everything from top to bottom and then finally, decide on an opinion or attempt at forming one.
Research means a systematic investigation into established facts. It is not finding facts and mugging them up but rather to understand, learn and explore unchartered territory.
Wikipedia is public knowledge in an organised manner and not a cacophonic chaos of noises, prejudices, propaganda and mass media bullshit that is what usually passes of as a source of information, the telly for us. It provides you a basic framework, from where you can progress to understanding the topic you intend to research and move on from there.
The real frustration for people is that they still have to put in the same amount of effort or sometimes even more and push their grey cells to new extremes rather than getting pre-formed, socially approved facts and opinions when they land on a Wikipedia page.
Recently a series of articles popped up online on major news sites regarding concerns of the medical fraternity over people self-diagnosing and self-medicating over Wikipedia entries.
Shit, if I was a doctor and my patients miss their appointments because Wikipedia is giving them advice, I would be very concerned. I would go to my Doctor’s association or union, threaten my local representatives and sue these mofo’s who are “Taking our jobs!!”
List of Articles
The New York Magazine tops it all up with “Don’t Trust Dr Wikipedia” a notion which I would not limit to Wikipedia only but would attribute it to every word written online.
There is a reason why individuals group together in case their personal agendas are similar or match each other. This is a brilliant example of different interest groups getting together and taking a dump on Wikipedia. So far they have been unsuccessful even though they have plenty of money and bodies to throw at it. But Wikipedia is the general digital public of the whole world. Thousand upon thousands, researching, editing and writing data for Wikipedia every day!
What we need is more community driven, volunteer run projects and activities which is spread over to every corner of the country. If you are represented by just a username and text online, you are what you actually are. It’s a Digital Society run by its own rules with crowdsourced resources. And a few like-minded and motivated individuals usually prove to be one of the most radical forces in the world.