Dear Tom and David,
On Wednesday 27 July 2011 03:03 PM, Thomas Morton wrote:
This is a really interesting and thoughtfully complete
As an editor I am cautious of how well these could be used as citations
without falling afoul of "original research".
The first problem I see is that presentation becomes difficult:
"Interviews with members of the Sk8r
tribe in 2011 indicated that they have a deep animosity towards the
Clearly marks the source, but does not clarify who made the
where the indication came from (i.e. did they say this outright, or did they
just moan about the Emos constantly - the latter, of course, being a
problematic conclusion), or who drew the interpretation (if applicable). On
top of that it is not a *great* way to write content - better to stick to
straight facts where possible ("the Sk8r tribe have a deep animosity toward
In this case, if you scroll down the list on the research page
) to see the
articles created in Hindi and Malayalam, you will see reference links
that take you straight to the audio file on Wikimedia Commons, wherein
you will find exactly this information - this was part of the protocol.
The who is doing it/ who is being talked to bit has been taken care of
We're still developing the articles, so more will come; we're also
working on English transcripts for the audio interviews, which will
happen in time, so stay tuned.
This can probably be addressed by working out a good
way to cite oral
The second issue I touched on above; in that editors may have difficulty
drawing purely factual material from the source, rather
than making interpretations. Whilst I could see an argument for a little
leeway on oral material being interpreted, I also think it is a bad idea to
encourage too much.
Of course, material from academically qualified people (as much of this
particular project seems to be) could happily be treated in the same way as,
say, an academic writing a book or an article (with the slight caveat of no
independent review). But from unqualified people - who is going to draw it
together? I've always been in favour of giving experts in a field some
leeway in how they record/report/source/present material in Wikipedia.
However shifting that to an oral citation is not necessarily a simple task.
look at the subjects we focused on (broadly taken: folk games,
household recipes, traditional food, religious culture) one thing that
becomes really interesting is who the "expert" is. Mokgope, for
instance, is a country liquor brewed from marula fruit in one somewhat
remote province of South Africa. I'd wager that the people we talked to
- women from the village of Ga-Sebotlane - are the world experts on
this. (Same goes for the recipe for how to cook Mopani worms). As with
the folk games in India; the people who play them, in the places they
do, are likely to know more about them than almost anyone else.
So: one nice consequence of this project (and, I would wager, a natural
fit with Wikipedia) is that experts are everywhere, depending on what it
is we're talking about.
*What I do think is incredibly important though is
that this material has
huge value in itself - and every effort to encourage more of the same should
be taken! *
In fact we should get as much material such as this as possible, host it,
translate it, make it accessible - and encourage secondary academic sources
to make use of it. This could work both as a "hack" to get around the issues
of citing oral material directly as well as contributing to the effort to
expand knowledge of these areas of study.
I'm excited to see the next step for this... is there going to be more of
this work? Can we get some publicity for this in the relevant academic
circles? Is there potential for the foundation to fund efforts to collect
more and more material? Can we look at expanding it to other areas (for
example - although I appreciate the focus is areas not covered by written
material, this would be equally valuable in some parts of the global north;
even in the UK I could see advantages to recording interviews with different
The universality of this idea is key, and thanks for pointing it out.
While the lack of printed material in India and South Africa is
symptomatic of the problem with documenting the world's knowledge under
a strict (print only) citation system, the fact is, none of us who
worked on this project see it merely as a tropical remedy for brown and
black folks. It is Anglo-European language Wikipedias who stand to
benefit the most; these are - and will be - the places people
predominantly go to for some time to come. And currently, they stand to
lose out on a vast chunk of the world's knowledge by restricting
citations to mainly print sources. A tangential point is that in
addition to user-conducted oral interviews as citations, there is
probably some benefit in re-looking at the citation base as a whole: by,
perhaps, sourcing from other internet-based systems of trust where
knowledge is being created, and/or established oral history archives.
In short, the world would benefit from knowing how to cook Mopani worms :)
Long term we could perhaps even consider a new project
that is intended
specifically to collect oral evidence, host it (through commons), translate
it and make it easy to cite/use. Such a project would be horrendously
valuable and provide insight into all manner of cultures.
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