The Sunday Guardian

Sunday Guardian:  Art as Critique: Tackling the bias, flaws in WikipediaThe Sunday Guardian: Art as Critique: Tackling the bias, flaws in Wikipedia
by Shweta Sharma

The growth of Wikipedia as an institution has mirrored, and possibly even propelled, the growth of Web2.0. As the importance of Web2.0 has grown in our lives, Wikipedia has become the world’s go-to encyclopeadia, a veritable treasure trove of information on all sorts of topics. Because Wikipedia is user-generated, relying on its readers to add the information, it manages to cover more topics than any other encyclopedia before it. And with its rise has come about the demise of Encyclopedia Britannica and World Book, those handsomely bound, meticulously edited, multi-volume tracts that were the first source of research for student and teacher alike in the days before the Internet.

But of course, not everything in Wikipedia-land is hunky dory. The first and most important criticism of the encyclopedia is that, by allowing users to generate and edit their own entries, there is no one who is accountable for any errors that creep in – and any expert on a topic will tell you just how many errors creep into almost every Wikipedia article. This was the basis from which digital media artists Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall launched Wikipedia Art in February 2009. Their goal is to bring to the public’s attention the most vital failings of Wikipedia as a media source; to inform them that the world should not trust everything they say under the famous W symbol.

“Wikipedia Art arose from our discussions about how important Wikipedia is as a resource of information, but how little people know about its internal mechanisms. Nathaniel and I had tried working as Wikipedia editors to compensate for the absence of contemporary arts coverage in it. We realised that many assume that Wikipedia is the ‘free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit’, while it’s actually quite difficult to make a new page. And there’s a lot of politics and lobbying involved in trying to get across an important information in it,” says Kildall.

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