My response to DanahBoyd's worries about WikiPedia.

"My concern - and that of many of my colleagues - is that students are often not media-savvy enough to recognize when to trust Wikipedia and when this is a dreadful idea. "

I think this pretty much sums up "elitism", no? To believe that there is a class of people (in your example, students) who are not sufficiently "savvy" to recognise what's true and what isn't, and should therefore be protected from some misleading information. Even though, you, yourself, personally are able to recognise the truth and therefore benefit from the resource.

Not saying that you're wrong, but you are elitist. :-)

More to the point, how is it that you got to be in this fine state? Through reading the right material : the right books and encyclopedias and web-sites? How could you demonstrate or prove that you are more savvy or that your cannon is better than wikipedia?

"They quote from it as though it cannot be inaccurate."

I don't see these two ideas automatically go together. Quoting something shouldn't be taken as meaning you don't believe it couldn't be inaccurate. It just means that you think it is accurate. (That's something quite different.)

The point is, everything should come with implied "scare-quotes". But if it does, it's not clear why anyone should draw attention to the fact. Just as "the fish doesn't look at the water", perhaps we don't need to see the "but I may of course be wrong" invisibly appended to every statement we make.

It may be that exposure to wikipedia (or the internet in general) quickly teaches this kind of universal scepticism, so much so that habitues don't realize that there are discourses which make a lot more of a song and dance about the fact that they recognise all narratives are suspect.

That seems to me to be the real challenge to academia. And maybe the real problem of Wikipedia for the elites. It isn't that people might get misled. The bigger fear is that they might start asking "how do I know that those bastards at Britanica and Oxford University Press aren't lying to me? Who's checking them out?"

In short, it might democratize scepticism. Academic savvy is largely based on having read enough sources to realize that none can plausibly be authoritative. Whereas the layman has typically read only a couple of books on a subject and assumes that's the first and last word on the matter. Suddenly, with Wikipedia, the layman can hit the "history" button and see that there are dozens of competing viewpoints on any topic and will soon become as sceptical and savvy as the professor.

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