Friday, April 29, 2005 Proving We Can All Get Along-o-Pedia

The Wikipedia is the world’s largest free encyclopedia, available to all with an Internet connection and a browser. The Wikipedia has become something of a media phenomenon because of its unique slant on data collecting – rather than employing data processors, like all the other encyclopedia sites, the site enlists its visitors to do the dirty work. The vast database of articles can be edited by any passer-by, and anyone can add an article of their own by means of software known as ‘Wiki’. Anybody can become a Wikipedian by helping to improve the infobase. It is this all-inclusive, non-profit and collaborative philosophy that makes the Wikipedia a staple in many thousands of Internet users’ favourites list.

As part of my Media and Communications coursework, what follows is a record of my encounter with the Wikipedia, details of the work I did to somehow enhance its infobase, its connections to some of
Marshall McLuhan’s concept of a ‘Global Village’ and finally my reflections on the Wikipedia as an online presence.

Firstly, I have used the Wikipedia several times as a means of gathering information on a subject. It currently lists 543,426 articles and grows day by day, so is irrefutably a most excellent resource for data collection. Businesses, students, and bored web-surfers alike can all gain from time spent scouring its pages. The site can be seen as thousands of single-page articles linked together by a front-end search engine and through each other by means of hyper linking. This gives the user the sense that if the information they need is present, it can be found with relative ease. Subjects ranging from the different types of
Kryptonite to the somehow more significant topic of the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI are available for your delectation or for your direct study. It is alleged that the Wikipedia was first to announce the new papacy on the Internet, by means of a Wikipedian with computer access from inside the Vatican Square.

You can read an article to which I contributed about my favourite stereo system designers,
Bang & Olufsen. The Wiki software is very easy to use, though some degree of skill is required to add polish to the articles; pictures, sound clips and the like. External links can also be added to give a broader perspective on a subject should the Wikipedia fail to meet the user’s needs.
One can imagine the Wikipedia as a massive library, with hundreds of visitors at a time rushing around reading its books, and crossing words out and writing their own pages, before putting them back on the shelves for all to see. The Wikipedia is in constant flux, and evolves day by day. In this way the Wikipedia is a truly collaborative enterprise, and one which I believe is the first to properly nail the idea of a ‘Global Village’. Nobody owns it, everybody does. It is a self-sustaining harmony of ideas where every user has equal rights and every user can do their bit by adding their piece of specialist information. It’s all very post-modern, and is a credit to all of its contributors.


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