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Wiki what?

The Internet is a wonderful thing, not least for students and academics from which its popularity began in the first place. But, and this question has been debated a lot over the past few years, isn't it just littered with inaccuracies and ill-informed opinion? Does the democracy of the information super-highway devalue educated, informed opinion by those who have painstakingly studied the subject(s)? The online 2.0 culture (user-generated) is definitely shaking up academics everywhere. Many are sick of seeing, cited in students' bibliographies, that fount of all sacred knowledge, Wikipedia. It would seem that many students are blissfully unaware that the entries could be written by anyone. They also think of pedia as being associated with authority, when in fact it is the wiki- they should set the alarm bells ringing. Wiki is, I think, a word from Haiwai which means quick to edit, or something. But, like much on Wikipedia, don't quote me on that. I have heard of a few universities even banning students from citing anything from that, and other similar sources. It can be a good starting point, as many subjects are given good overviews, and some articles include links to online journals. The wikipedia problem can be seen as a symptom of much wider problems, however. If a scholar, or anyone with a brain cell, is prepared to believe without question an article from an unnamed and unchecked source then what does that say about their attitude towards life in general? Too trusting? Not really interested in getting to the root of things? Not bothered either way? My parents believed a lot of what the papers said. My mum much more so. My dad, who passed away in March, was always retelling the articles he had read in his daily newspapers, but with a dose of cynicism. But newspapers, many of them, are no longer as concerned with facts. Many of them can and should be called the daily wiki, or the wiki evening news as they too are hastily put together from unreliable sources and quickly edited. So, do academics need to fear the tonnes of wiki material online? Yes and no. Yes because it doesn't say as much about the person who has posted an inaccurate piece as the student who has taken it unquestioningly - and that means a vital ingredient in the intellectual formation and the intrinsic questioning needed has gone awry long before. And no because, whilst the Internet is an amazing world changing resource, like certain newspapers, the dodgy information only makes the accurate, well researched material all the more needed and valuable.

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