Monday, January 09, 2006

The Most Ignored Aspect of Globalization: Wikipedia four faults to Britannica's three

As incredibly unfashionable as it is these days to be pro-globalization, we've got good news: Between 1950 and 1999, global literacy increased from 52% to 81% of the world.

That's not actually the reason we're writing this, but we just went to wikipedia and typed "fashionable." That got us a bunch of boring stuff about clothes, imagine that, and some guy named Albrecht Dürer, who's damned funny looking (He's that guy to the left who looks like Tori Amos).

We've never heard of him, but apparently he was an important guy. He wrote back and forth Raphael, it seems.

Anywho, we let that go, not that interesting. That's not to say that it's not important, we're just not into apocalyptic painters from the Renaissance, but the next time Dürer comes up in passing conversation, we'll say, "Oh, the guy who wrote Vier Bücher von menschlicher Proportion. Yeah, we've only read both of his books."

From there, we looked up globalization and found the quote about literacy, among many other "pro-globalization" positions. That's where we found the picture of the mock American flag.

Where is this going? Well, we've been touting Wikipedia for quite some time, though only quietly amongst ourselves for the most part. You see the knowledge contained in Wikipedia is sizable, free, and completely democratic.

We've been considering as a result the idea that Wikipedia could be the Internet version of the European coffeehouses in the 17th and 18th centuries, which were hotbeds for the blossoming juggernaut that is now known as the Enlightenment.

Now, however, despite our almost constant hesitation in saying anything with any degree of certainty, we are screaming it from the cyber-optic rooftops: Wikipedia is a symbol of good globalization. In an article in the Christian Science Monitor today explained how the journal Nature did a study and found that Wikipedia on average had about four faults to Britannica's three. These faults are "factual errors, critical omissions, or misleading statements."

This is exactly what we assumed the case would be. Though people often say, "Well, how could you trust an encyclopedia compiled by a bunch of random people?" Our response is always, "Do you love something?" If the person says no, then we sigh and concede the argument. If, however, the person says yes, we smile and we ask what it is they love, praying that they don't say, "
I love model airplanes," or, "I love disliking encyclopedias compiled by random people." Let's say he says, "I love fishing."

We smile gleefully and rap rapturously on our keys. To present the two points, we would first address the issue of misleading information. "What would you say," we ask our subject, "If someone wrote, concerning catch and release, "Most people dissaprove of catch and release because it hurts the fish and it does very little good to the environment." Obviously, the person would want to edit the entry for catch and release, supplying reasons why catch and release is beneficial to the environement and why it is an enjoyable sport.

We would then say, to emphasize this point, the more contreversial the subject matter of an entry (i.e. Globalization, President Bush, Osama bin Laden, etc.) the more accurate the article will probably be, because I'll be damned if a liberal is going to let a conservative say, "George Bush saved America, and the world, from certain destruction by invading Iraq." The liberal will then change the entry to include references from CIA agents in the field who have become outspoken critics of the decision to invade Iraq, but he'll also call Republicans "poo-faces." So some kind-hearted person will then come along and erase "poo-faces."

For point number two, we will ask, "Did you know that for some 1300 years, Chinese in some areas have been using commorants to fish? Have you heard of the water dogs in Portugal? If our subject has an inquisitive bone in his body, he will want to know.

We are cognizant of the fact that this will seem like we're making mountains out of molehills, but we can't stress the fact that, in large part, the Enlightenment was a result in a widening of the swath of people that information could reach. The internet poses the same possibility, though on a scale exponentially larger.

The CS Minitor article hints to the sort of possibilities we are talking about:
Serbs and Croats are also working together on Wikipedia articles, he says. So are mainland Chinese and Taiwanese, who have created about 51,000 articles so far. The Chinese Wikipedia is currently blocked from view in mainland China, something the foundation is trying to address.

Reaching the poorest parts of the world that lack Internet connections may mean burning versions of Wikipedia onto CDs or, coming full circle, even printing the encyclopedia out on paper.
What it all comes down to is that in the Enlightenment, there was no other check on whether knowledge was bonified or not: other knowledgeable people. We've learn time and time again that putting strict rules in place to curb factuality in some of the world largest information organizations hasn't stopped false information from being produced (see the recent South Korean scientist who lied about his stem cell research, "Rathergate," that NY Times writer a couple of years ago who plagiarized his stories (I had forgotten his name, so I typed plagiarism in Wikipedia, and found his name at the bottom).

Lastly, we'd like to stress that we are not trying to get people to accept Wikipedia as a valid source, but as a starting point. When searching for information on any subject, from Ronald McDonald (SIDENOTE: it was searching for the origins of RM that I found out the US, Hammas and various other organizations had started making video games to entice kids to sign up) to Globish, Wikipedia is likely to give you at least a taste of each perspective of the subject, as well as perhaps some things you had never thought of before. As one of the creaters of Wikipedia put it, "
I think an enormous number of problems in the world are just caused by a lack of information, a lack of understanding, a lack of reflection." Amen. Godspeed you beautiful globalizers of information.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dont exactly anyone who is anti-globilisation is anti the internet, or wikipedia for that matter although are knock-on effects of globalisation, infact many left leaning anti-globalisation types infact believe in the international its just the manner in which it is happening, yes wikipedia is a great and wonderful thing and you are right to sing its praises but i dont get the pro-globalisation slant

7:41 PM  

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