On Fri, Jun 3, 2011 at 1:50 PM, Charles Matthews
On 02/06/2011 19:56, Sage Ross wrote:
My impression (admittedly based on a fairly
narrow range of
experiences in the area) is that we actually are getting pretty close
to a tipping point. And the key lever we have for tipping things is
better tools and guidance and support for having academic experts
assign their students to edit. The amount of enthusiasm and positive
reaction to the Wikipedia Ambassador Program and the whole concept of
Wikipedia assignments... it seems like a different world than it was a
few years ago.
The new education portal, especially as we refine it and start to add
some technical tools for helping profs evaluation their students'
contributions, is going to be a pretty powerful tool for getting more
experts involved (I hope).
Not to be a wet blanket (beyond reason) but we are talking about
cultural factors here, with academics. The _students_ are not in fact
the experts, obviously enough. I have done some academic outreach work,
and there remains always the "publish or perish" question: why would
academics themselves find time in their schedules for WP work, if it
cannot contribute to their CV?
I've been meaning to reply to this for some days, and having attended
the second editathon at the British Library yesterday, this seems a
good time to reply, albeit that was a GLAM event, rather than an
academic outreach event, but there are similarities.
Now there are good answers to that one (some will and
tenure; amazingly, some academics actually believe in promoting their
subject rather than just themselves). The argument that class
assignments will prove the soft underbelly of academia depends on some
things we can know about (assessment methods, for example - pretty much
ruling it out here in the UK), and some we don't (whether more intimate
contact with WP mechanisms will enthuse academic experts or put them off).
My feeling is that Wikipedia will always have a much more broad
editing base than just academics or students of academics. This
includes those who are pre-university (i.e. high school students),
those who are post-university or never went to university (for whom
Wikipedia is an interest alongside full-time work), those who are
retired, etc. The point being that academics and students on courses
run by academics, will always have to fit in alongside other editors
(who in turn have to fit in alongside other editors as well).
Obviously catering for evaluation makes sense. But I
suspect the key
issue is going to turn out to be this: do 20 hours working on a WP
assignment teach a student more than 20 hours working on something more
conventional? If WP work turns out to be educational, then academics
ought to support it. I think there are reasons to be positive about this
The key to me seems to be to avoid initial barriers to editing putting
people off, and to enable people to work together whatever their
background. Some of those from an academic background find it very
off-putting having to explain how certain things work when selecting
and assessing sources and so on, or when writing in a certain style,
and those more familiar with Wikipedia can also find it hard to
explain how things work around here.
Having said that, the editathon I was at yesterday was interesting
because I got to watch several experienced editors at work and see how
their approach differed to mine (in technical details, not overall
approach), and also to work with a new editor and see first-hand what
bits of the Wikipedia editing experience are difficult to pick up on
and which bits are easier to understand.
Though it did make me realise that working together on an article when
in the same room is very different to working on an article (or group
of articles) when working remotely and communicating on Wikipedia talk
pages. You can preview the language of an edit and talk about it
before saving it, for instance, as well as talking about a source you
have open in front of you (in a book or on the screen). All that
discussion normally takes place on Wikipedia talk pages (if at all).
Talking face-to-face avoids some of the misunderstandings caused by
written communication, but leaves no record of the discussion (unless
you summarise it somewhere). Advantages and disadvantages.
One of the key advantages of editors who are academics and students is
easier access to academic sources, of course.