In this article, “Wikipedia:Ten things you may not know about Wikipedia,” written in on that site in celebration of their 10th anniversary and amidst what continues to be controversial times for this online entity, some points with real staying power are brought forward. Zooming in on a few of these, the vision of Wikipedia becomes more relevant in our modern, interconnected, and shrinking world.
Some validations of the oft maligned online behemoth and a few implications for our society in general:
1. Wikipedia isn’t selling anything. What? How can that be? They have a non-profit status.
Validation: A secular non-profit with an unmatched level of influence.
2. Wikipedia gives away its assets. Why? The cause they are promoting is shared information. There vision is to create shared knowledge.
Validation: A place one can contribute and benefit from information and digital media and use it without any financial burden being placed upon the user.
3. Wikipedia is multi-lingual in a big way: about 300 languages (as of March 2016). Whoa! Did you know that there are approximately 141 agreed upon language families in the world? Ethnologue ‘s “Summary of Language by Family” provides a great insight here. Wikipedia is expanding the number of languages with which it interacts at the same time the numbers of languages are shrinking. These numbers will continue to trend towards each other.
Validation: Geographic, and lingual barriers are minimized. Global accessibility and contributorship are expanding.
4. Wikipedia can be added to, but never delete from. The new record doesn’t replace, but is overlaid upon the older records.
Validation: This creates a thread of development that preserved over time will be a traceable history of all things that influence human existence from 2001 to the current.
5. Wikipedia recognizes the shortfalls in consistency and accuracy. They say: “It is in the nature of an ever-changing work like Wikipedia that, while some articles are of the highest quality of scholarship, others are admittedly complete rubbish.”
Validation: This is reflective of our human condition and is reflective of recorded history which although claimed by various parties of influence throughout history as reliable and unquestionable, often times reveal bias and false information which can be seen to serve a political or academic agenda at some point in the resource’s history.
6. Wikipedia is growing, accepting of difference, promoting a culture of debate, and entirely self-governed. They aren’t afraid of disagreement, but welcome it and the growth it brings.
Implication: This entity is not interested in centralized power or control, but rather the balance and growth that occurs through the tensions and releases of discord through respectful resolution.
7. Wikipedia is in it for the long game. They openly work toward securing and validating their longevity.
Implication: Knowledge and its power grows from the hearts, minds, spirits and imaginations of every human. They simply open a door for any who wishes to walk through it. The article closes with this invitation: “We [Wikipedia] want you to imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.
Wikipedia has good intentions and remarkable forward motion. It also has the relentless fault of human error that it must work to reconcile. In all things human, it is impossible to see clearly through the dust kicked up by those moving forward until those on the journey have traveled far into the future. When history has a longer tale to tell of Wikipedia, it may be a noble epic, or a short encapsulated fable. If I were guessing, I’d venture to say that it is going to be somewhere in between. In the making of that story, as Shakespeare said, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts,” now the whole world is writing the story, making entrances, sometimes many entrances in staggering detail on many subjects and ideas. These contributions may be good, bad or indifferent, on Wikipedia but lone fact that it is possibility and a reality is a reckoning inconceivable barely two decades ago and that is worthy of great respect.