Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, Ph.D.

I study people, technology, and the worlds they make

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Matt Jones has an interesting idea about using information design to make the authority of Wikipedia articles easier to judge.

4 Comments

  1. Thanks! Unfortunately the debate seems to still be focussed on abstract notions of trust and authority rather than interface design… ah well… 😉

  2. There is still a fundamental confusion of authority and consensus. Just because a lot of people believe it doesn’t make it so. Everyone seems to understand this in the context of, say, an election (“Those 50-odd million people are crazy!”) but not in the Encyclopedia as Video Game business.

  3. Well, a system like the one Matt proposes brings a step closer to being able to make some kind of evaluation of the article.

    And if memory serves, in the case of geographical controversies (our old friend “Sea of Japan” comes to mind), we defended what we wrote on the grounds that regardless of WHY people called it the Sea of Japan, that’s what people called it today, and we weren’t going to be a vehicle for Korean nationalism. In other words, we appealed to consensus. This isn’t to say that you’re wrong; but there IS some overlap between authority and consensus.

    Part of me thinks that while it would be impossible to do an open source Britannica, there are some elements of the open source model that a reference publisher could appropriate. In some ways, code is easy to open source– you can immediately tell if something you’ve written is good or not– while other kinds of cultural production are much more difficult.

    But given how immensely expensive encyclopedias are to produce, and how valuable they are as cultural documents (and sources of knowledge), it’s worth trying to figure out whether such a hybrid would a vigorous cross-breed, or a chimera.

    (And if the Sea of Japan comment doesn’t draw some impassioned comments, I’ll be surprised. Just for the record, my opinion IS for sale. Let’s talk, preferably in an all-expenses paid suite at the Shilla.)

  4. cutie!

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