Does Wikipedia Suck?

I agree, we can’t ignore the scale at which digital technologies has proliferated. Even though Cathy Davidson openly admits to a very strong bias in favor of more digital technology, I think she makes several strong points. For one, the edit-as-you-please characterization of Wikipedia is often blown out of proportion. More often than not, when you go to your desired Wikipedia page, you’ll find the information that you were looking for. It’s not like an article about George Washington would say that he led the American colonies to victory with battalions of tanks and dinosaurs.

Something that Davidson mentioned that personally struck a chord with me was her reference to Pokémon. I am a huge fan of this game series; it was a significant part of my childhood and it still is today, as I play it competitively on a regular basis. I can attest to Davidson’s claim that Pokémon is a game that fosters “creativity and remarkable manual dexterity” (168). At least from a competitive aspect, I see Pokémon as a game that is sort of similar to chess. Lots of predictions, assumptions, and calculations are made in your typical battle. To relate to the article’s core focus, the competitive Pokémon battling scene even has its own version of Wikipedia. Smogon, which is actually the German name for the Pokémon Koffing, is an encyclopedia/database/forum/everything-you-can-imagine-about-competitive-Pokémon-thing. Here, you can find entries on all 721 Pokémon, their strengths and weaknesses, potential movesets, and their place in the metagame (refers to any aspect of strategy that involves thinking about what your opponent is thinking you are thinking). Much like Wikipedia, it is very much user-oriented and its entries encourage the community to contribute.

Smogon demonstrates not only the influence of digital technologies, but also their relevance and importance. I think it is safe to say that Smogon would probably not exist in hardcopy form. I can’t think of many publishing companies that would be willing to market a product that is as comprehensive as Smogon’s database that appeals to such a small niche demographic. After all, the Pokémon games have always existed exclusively through a digital medium. Because of the manner in which popular culture exists in the age of the Internet, digital mediums are ubiquitous and inescapable. This is great because the single most important virtue of the Internet is its accessibility. The idea of having the whole world at your fingertips is quite literally true. In the case of Pokemon, I can find as much information I want on Pikachu, Charmander, or Squirtle. The Internet’s accessibility benefits those who seek entertainment but also those who seek knowledge. Referring back to Davidson, communities like those found on Wikipedia are “devoted to a common good – the life of the intellect” (167). While I do think that the word intellect is a tad bit too strong in this case, the core principle of this statement remains true. Wikipedia solely exists to share knowledge and it does an excellent job at doing that. As it exists today, Wikipedia and other mediums like it allow Internet users from all across the world to gather together and discuss ideas in a way that simply could not be done without digital technology. Bookworms can keep their scholarly articles and encyclopedic tomes; I think the rest of us will be fine.

The Pokémon Koffing, Smogon’s namesake:1502780

A sample entry in Smogon’s database, featuring none other than Pokémon’s mascot itself


Does Wikipedia Suck?

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