I will start with a quote by Jimmy Whales, the founder of Wikipedia, during a 2005 TED talk: “:The type of people who were drawn to write an encyclopedia for fun, tend to be some smart people” which in my opinion answers the question if we should trust Wikipedia.
Since its creation in 2001, Wikipedia has become one of the top 10 used websites, the content of which is viewed and enjoyed by all of us. It’s radical idea of collaboration, of course, is surrounded by lots of controversy. The most common questions asked is: Can we trust it and how much? Does it represent truth or truthiness?
Up to date, there is no philosophical agreement on what exactly constitutes truth and there are multiple theories that examine the concept. In this case, the most common concern is based on the assumption that “truth” in Wikipedia can be just a matter of personal opinion? And personal opinion and views do not determine reality. Therefore, the truth is Wikipedia is questionable.
In that note, I liked the comparison that Jimmy Whales and another classmate make with blogging. Blogs in comparison to journalism do not report, but represent the truth in subjective ways, through the eyes of the writer. Does this mean that we should not trust them at all?
I agree that we should not blindly trust Wikipedia’s entirely user-generated content, like in the case with John Seigenthaler, however we should not make extreme conclusions that it is not a reliable source of information. This study shows that Britanica and Wikipedia are almost equal in accuracy. After all, if Wikipedia was not volunteer-generated, it would not exist and serve us a as such a quick and convenient way of reference; Nupedia did not survive.
The other question that I think links to truthfulness, and what Jimmy Whales explains to control the quality and accuracy of information, is Wikipedia’s neutral point of view policy which volunteers respect and stick to. It they do not, their edits will be deleted. It is the social concept of cooperation and impartiality that drives people to create content and put together the little pieces of an endless puzzle, which I find to be a very fascinating phenomenon. This is how it maintains objectivity. Not to mention the fact that the handful of people who constantly create and maintain Wikipedia’s content are experts in their own areas.
The idea of collaboration, brings me back to Clay Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody” and the question he asks in it: “ Who cares if there is an article on asphalt? Cdani does” . The idea is that as long as there are people who care about a certain article, they will maintain its accuracy and protect it from vandalism, sticking to the idea of neutrality. Of course vandalism exists, but it does not last long due to Wikipedia’s self-healing nature.
This movie, called “The Truth about Wikipedia” by dutch filmmaker, IJsbrand van Veelen, represents a different point of view which denies the trustworthiness of Wikipedia and argues that there should be gatekeepers of the truth.
Contraversy will always exist. I myself, do not trust Wikipedia entirely, but it is the source of information that is always handy and gives me knowledge on every single topic that I gave searched so far. For a deeper research however, of course, it will not be my primary source.