Wikipedia is defined as “an online information source that is increasingly used as the first, and sometimes only, stop for online encyclopedic information […] and is often criticized for the credibility of its user-generated posts” (Royal and Kapila, 2009). Wikipedia is criticized for its unreliable and inaccurate information on its website. However, if an academic portion of the public edits the articles posted on Wikipedia the information would become more reliable and accurate. I will be discussing the lack of reliable and accurate information found on Wikipedia’s article on Sustainability. Analyzing the reliability of the participates that produce, edit and organize this information will either increase or decrease the trustworthiness of its articles. This aspect of the creation of Wikipedia can influence the article in a negative way.
The participates are accountable for producing, editing and organizing the information on each article on Wikipedia are in fact the reason why Wikipedia is criticized for being unreliable and inaccurate. These participates could be anyone, your neighbour, your high school teacher, your friend and even you. Blogger jdibiase18 stated that “the main issue with Wikipedia is that there are too many cooks in the kitchen (Jdibiase18, Environment and Climate Change, 2013). However, there are certain people that commit wrongful edits in order to muddle and ruin articles just because they want to. “Anyone can edit is an invitation for troublemakers and vandals who make thousands of foolish changes to articles every hour” (Jensen, 2012). These troublemakers accept partial blame of creating a perception of incorrect information on Wikipedia. Even though these wrongful edits are removed quickly, there are thousands and thousands of articles that cannot be monitored 24/7. The sustainability article shows multiple troublemaker edits in which the frequent editors discussed as a group and removed these edits right away. For example, “Hi, two other editors keep scrubbing this from external links”. This displaying that there are editors that are continuing deleting external links throughout the article.
This continuous editing on this Wikipedia has resulted in creative arguments. “This seems to be a unilateral re-write by Granitethighs, who apparently threw out the former article and substituted the current version. I do not see any consensus for these changes and want to understand more about how/why they came about.” This statement is taken directly from the Sustainability talk archive and displays the tension between editors and their perception of correct information. Every single editor believes his or her piece of information is correct and accurate, however that is not the case. The knowledge does differ between people; nevertheless it is not opinions that are discussed in the article but instead facts and correct information concerning the article.
This sustainability article talk achieve has demonstrated that until recently this article was under cited, under sourced and have inaccurate and incorrect information on it, in which making it very unreliable. For example one of the editors recently posted this statement; “I am amazed that there is suddenly such concern with precision (now) when the original article lacked precision so much. Included here would be the lack of citations and therefore the tendency for statements to become unsubstantiated assertions; repetition; a lack of clarity in exactly where the discussion was going and more – not least of which (because of the lack of citation) it was far more open to the criticism of being “original research” than the current article”. This exhibits the unreliability of Wikipedia articles.
For example within the Wikipedia article sustainability, there is a section devoted to discussing sustainable water. This section is lacking information on the various ways that water is over consumed and its negative affects. Also, there is no section relating to the recommendations that can be considered to limit or reduce this over consumption of water over time. Thirdly, there are only three sources within this section. Blogger ENVIRONEST stated that “In most cases, it is the lack of references that creates the most tension between the page contributors” (Environest, 2013). More academic sources could be used to develop a more reliable and accurate section on the sustainability of water.
My recommendations to increase the amount of reliable and accurate information throughout Wikipedia’s articles deal with academic professionals. There are thousands of teachers throughout elementary and high school and also thousands of university and college professors. These are the portion of the population, who should only be aloud to produce, edit and organize Wikipedia articles. I believe it is important to have someone with credentials in the field of study in regards to the article they are creating or working on. Jensen researched the editors of the 1812 article on Wikipedia and found that the top four editors had in fact credentials in the military field (Jensen, 2012). These credentials ranged from an American history professor to a recent Britain graduate. This assists the article to become more reliable and accurate because of the certain people who created and edited this article. Blogger Deforestation stated her opinion on this topic: “I agreed mostly with Jensen’s article because he spoke about one the biggest disadvantages of Wikipedia is its lack of authority. I too agree with this because the individuals who are writing or editing are not required to have any credentials” (Deforestation, 20130). The article I studied did not display the editors to be of any credentials, just regular people editing Wikipedia articles. This in fact gives the sustainability article on Wikipedia a potential to contain unreliable and inaccurate set of information.
In conclusion, “this is the power of technologies and regulatory systems governing our everyday lives and defining individual identities vis-à-vis collective identities” (Dijck & Nieborg, 2009). The power of technology has proven a great, important and influential one. Wikipedia its self is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people a day, in which influences all these people. This is why the lack of reliable and accurate information of the articles is such a persuading factor. A random person could edit something that is 100% incorrect and the reader would have no idea. Thus, using Wikipedia one must be cautious and keep in mind that the information displayed could be wrong.
Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-118
Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148
Van Dijk, J. & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media & Society. 11, 5. pp 855-874.
Wikipedia Article Talk Achieve:
This digital image above displays the participants that produce, edit and organize these articles, which includes the trouble makers, people with credential and everyone else.
Vlado (2011). People Network Stock Image [Digital Image]. Retrieved from: http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/Business_People_g201-People_Network_p32685.html