This is a very interesting article about one of my favorite websites. Thanks to Mona for the recommendation! This reminds me of a paper I wrote comparing the public pedagogy of TED with that of Wikipedia. I might have to dig that back up and take a look at it. In that paper, I used Wikimedia Commons as a kind of foil for what I saw as an elite corporatist TED talks structure and vision. But this criticism of wikipedia would definitely add some dimensions to that discussion.
One response I have to this article right off the bat is that I don’t think it’s quite fair or even realistic to judge wikipedia by the VERY idealistic standard it set for itself of compiling all human knowledge. First of all, this is really just shorthand for a much more complex mission I think. But also, even assuming it were somehow possible to catalog all human knowledge with present technology (and I don’t think it is actually), treating wikipedia as a failure on this count, ignores the amazing complexity and utility and influence of the website. The fact that wikipedia gives more detailed and in-depth coverage to Pokemon than African authors, must definitely be a little embarrassing for its creators. But the empirical value of that fact is still nothing to scoff at. It is a perfect substrate for cultural criticism, but it also seems to be marking its own way forward. I don’t think this kind of criticism could have been written about the Encyclopedia Britannica, for example. The scope of the Wikimedia Commons, and the work it does, goes well beyond that of traditional encyclopedias. So, it seems unreasonable to me to try and judge it by the same standards. The fact is that Pokemon is still more important and interesting to the average wikipedia user than, say Chinua Achebe’s oeuvre, is definitely an important moment for reflection, but it’s not quite the death knell that the authors are making it out to be.