Wikipedia Thoughts and Reflections

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Photo credit: Talia’s Tidbits

Going into this, I have to tell you that I am not a Wikipedia fan whatsoever. As a college student, the reference I hear to Wikipedia most often is from professors: “No, Wikipedia does NOT count as an academic resource.” In fact, all of my high school teachers spouted the same catch phrase–an effort, I’m sure, to prepare us for hearing it from a professor later. If you say something enough times–or, in this case, hear it–it becomes true. Whether for better or worse (though I would argue for better), I have absorbed that mantra. I even took it one step further; I avoid Wikipedia at all costs. I’m not denying that it has purpose and use, but it’s something that I personally avoid whenever possible.

When I was in middle school, my friends and I discovered how easy it was to change the entries for things, and although the entries did not stick, I remain wary from that experience. A knowledge base that anyone can contribute to is not a place that I go for information, unless as a last resort. Just the other day, I saw that Buzzfeed had uploaded a picture to Instagram showing that Mariah Carrey’s birthday on her Wikipedia page remains unresolved. Thinking that this had to be photoshopped, I put on my investigator cap and headed on over to Wikipedia. Sure enough, her age is listed as 46 OR 47.

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In the “age of information,” how is this even possible? I tried (kind of) to give Wikipedia the benefit of the doubt, but I remain determinedly steadfast in my belief that it’s not the site for me.

Tom Simonite said it best in his article “The Decline of Wikipedia”: “Authoritative entries remain elusive. Of the 1,000 articles that the project’s own volunteers have tagged as forming the core of a good encyclopedia, most don’t earn even Wikipedia’s own middle-ranking quality scores.” While I respect Wikipedia’s goal of creating a collaborative knowledge-base, I don’t think that a forum that technically allows anyone to try his or her hand at editing makes for a good resource. Maybe this is too traditional an approach, but I think we have experts for a reason…and we should use them! What message does it send to experts when anyone lacking similar qualifications can delete and edit information on a whim?

Quoting Justine Cassell, Sue Gardner writes on her blog: “To have one’s words listened to on Wikipedia, often one must have to debate, defend, and insist that one’s point of view is the only valid one.” I believe that debate and defense are of the utmost importance to reaching a democratic consensus about information; however, I don’t believe that Wikipedia is the right place for that activity to occur. In the academic community, people engage in this kind of debate and defense by way of scholarly essays and conferences with other people whose life work has been dedicated to a particular topic. The fact that anyone can assume a mask of authority on Wikipedia completely undermines all of the pain-staking work and education that experts commit themselves to.

I’m not in the business of criticizing for the sake of criticizing. I point out these flaws because I think we need to explore ways of reinventing the online encyclopedia so that it is less of a conglomeration of questionable contributions, and more of an easily accessible wealth of reliable information. Experts should be called upon to collaborate with one another to create pages related to their fields of study. This expert classification is not exclusive to Ph.D. holding, critically acclaimed, wonder man/woman types of people; I imagine this classification similar to TED talks and how they determine what makes someone “expert enough” to speak authoritatively on a subject.

I don’t make this suggestion, though, without considering the way that this displaces the community of volunteers; these volunteers should have easy access to an email or message feature in which they can question elements of the page or suggest edits directly to the experts. As it is, I don’t think that the constant editing wars and heated (but often not productive) debates that occur on Wikipedia serve its mission to the best of its ability. Something needs to change. Perhaps my suggestion is not the answer, but it’s important that we start thinking about what could be the answer. We need to work collaboratively to brainstorm how to save the online source of the world’s information from falling victim to its own failed collaborative endeavor.

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Remediation Narrative Project

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Photo credit: Talia’s Tidbits

Unlike my very first experience creating content online (I made a website for a dearly departed hamster), I was determined that this online endeavor would actually show a level of intentionality and resonate with an audience. Had I chosen to literally translate the story of my hamster and his website homage into new media, I would have been replicating the same lack of deliberate online activity and audience awareness–after all, who (besides myself) cares about Cookie’s passing, especially ten years later? I decided to start from scratch, coming up with an idea completely untouched in my DLN to explore these issues that did arise in the memory my narrative relates.

I decided to create a persona dedicated to recommending books, which, as it turns out, actually has a very active and vibrant place on the internet. I chose to use Instagram as my primary platform (aided by Twitter and a blog), since I wanted to explore how I could use visuals as rhetoric to communicate with an audience, as well as build a niche within a digital community. Guided by my basic research mission on how to attract view/likes/clicks, I heeded Jay David Bolter’s words from “Writing as Technology,” the second chapter of Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print: “The linear character of print is the outcome of the constant interaction between the properties of the printed book and the decisions that Western authors and readers have made about how to exploit those properties” (21). Instagram is the perfect platform to challenge linearity, since its primary function of photo sharing is combined with a vertical structure. It turns out that capitalizing on the idea of “judging a book by its cover” made my platform choice, where I could share images of book covers for others to “judge,” the best option for this particular purpose.

As you look through my remediated DLN, I hope that what stands out is my effort not only to create a project that is harmonious across platforms, but also one that uses visuals to establish an audience relationship.

Multi-Platform Personas

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Photo credit: Talia’s Tidbits

If you’ve been reading Talia’s Tidbits from the very beginning, this might seem like a strange time for me to introduce myself. Maybe you feel like you’ve gotten to know me because I told you all about my hamster and the website I made for him, but I think it’s time that I intentionally introduce myself via my revised “About me” pages. For my remediation project, I’ve changed the “About me” for Talia’s Tidbits, designed a “Q & A” that serves as an About page for the Shelf Scout blog, and created a bio for the Shelf Scout Instagram and Twitter accounts. Check them out:

Talia’s Tidbits:

Most of us have tidbits of ourselves spread out all over the internet, from Instagram accounts to blogs (and everything in between). Talia’s Tidbits is here to explore digital presence and promote intentional online activity. Let’s navigate this crazy, wonderful internet world together.

Want to see this exploration in action? Check out my latest project Shelf Scout to get ideas about how to intentionally create a cohesive online presence across platforms. If you’re a bookworm, this project’s for you!

Shelf Scout blog:

What can Shelf Scout offer that larger-scale book recommendation websites cannot?

While larger-scale book recommendation websites are wonderfully detailed, we find that their databases can often be overwhelming. You have to log on with a very clear idea of what kind of book you want to read or you’ll end up lost amidst thousands of titles. Shelf Scout is intended to guide those who want to build their literary repertoire, but don’t know just quite where to begin.

Check out this cool little feature to learn more.

Does Shelf Scout post the same things on all its social media platforms?

Ick, that would be so boring! Shelf Scout has different social media accounts so that we can take advantage of the neat tools each one offers, but we take special care not to be redundant. When we recommend a new book, each platform will add something unique to the discussion: our Instagram shares original photography, our blog articulates the book selections, and our Twitter gives you a chance to take polls and interact with us more.

How are the Shelf Scout blogs structured?

Every book recommendation on our blog is structured the same:

Title and author
Why we love it
Favorite quote from the book
Citation (we’re conscientious recommenders!)

We keep it simple enough to not exhaust your eyes, but thoughtful enough to create intrigue.

Shelf Scout Instagram Bio:

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Should I add emojis to the Instagram bio, or do you prefer the simple, clean look? Let me know in the comments!

Shelf Scout Twitter Bio:

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Like a crab (pictured above by yours truly), I can thrive in multiple modes of existences–land and water, paper and online.