Growing up in the age of information, it’s fairly obvious that I grew up in a time where research is fairly easy to do, relatively speaking, compared to the past. The internet has redefined the way people learn about practically anything; no disciplines have been left to rot because of the internet, and in fact, new technologies have allowed new disciplines to come forth into the spotlight.
Cathy Davidson and I seem to share similar beliefs about a controversial aspect of the teaching capabilities of the internet. The ubiquitous website, Wikipedia, has “threatened the sanctity of scholarly research” in eyes of educative administrators; heavens forbid research become too easy. Davidson and I share the sentiment that Wikipedia isn’t all that bad though, mostly on the ideas printed sources and their legitimacy can also be questioned, and that Wikipedia is fascinating for myriad reasons: not only is the website a nexus for well-learned individuals to share their knowledge about anything, but the nature of the online encyclopedia is primed to propagate tangential learning, a self-teaching method that provokes itself when the learner is pre-exposed to the content through something they already enjoy, like the internet or video games.
This method of learning, something any educator would support due to its nature to combine various topics with self-gratification and enjoyment, goes hand in hand with Wikipedia in a way normal encyclopedias cannot. The instant-gratification of the internet actually rewards the user with knowledge as opposed to long term dissatisfaction. On Wikipedia, if you visit the site with the intention to research something specific, not only will you most likely find exactly what you are looking for, but the numerous links provided on a well-written page within the text itself and after the main bulk of the content is jaw-dropping and immensely and immediately helpful to the user.
Wikipedia’s main page itself aims to educate the common internet wayfarer. The page, which includes current events, trivia about randomly generated subject, trivia about the current day of the year, and a daily featured article about an exemplary page on the database.
On the sidebar of the Wikipedia site, there are a variety of links that can accelerate learning tangentially to a curious individual. The “Recent Changes” page and the “Random article” link are both valuable tools to a bored individual looking for something to satiate their cravings for new information.
Many years ago, before I entered High School, I edited wikis about video games. On there, I realized some Wikis (as similar websites are referred to as) not only instigate learning, but provoke other users to retain quality on the website. With a revolutionary website like Wikipedia, the security and integrity of the information on the site is high priority.
One of the common criticisms of Wikipedia is the somewhat reasonable belief that people can put whatever “information” they want on whatever page they want. This isn’t true, frankly, whether be on a wiki about Pokemon or the original site. Not only are joke edits and wrong information generally frowned upon by the moderators who look over these websites, but simple web tools on the site allow moderators to revert a page to a more professional look with the click of a mouse. Some pages are blocked from editing by unregistered or new users, or blocked entirely from non-administrators.
In a culture that thrives off of quickly obtained information from a website like Wikipedia, games have been made up to facilitate learning in an efficient way. A quick google search of ‘Wikipedia Game’ you’ll find many resources, including an article about a popular game on Wikipedia itself, and a phone app that helps bring this idea to more people.
The details on Tangential Learning are explored more in this video, granted, in context of video games, but either way I still consider this valuable information. Wikipedia as a tool is even discussed.
There are plenty of reasons why Wikipedia might not get the respect it deserves, but there are plenty of reasons going into why it deserves respect in the first place.