[Foundation-l] NPOV as common value?

Ray Saintonge saintonge at telus.net
Sat Apr 25 17:26:30 UTC 2009

Milos Rancic wrote:
> On Wed, Apr 22, 2009 at 8:06 AM, Michael Snow wrote:
>> Scientific? Is there something scientific about neutral point of view as
>> a framework for Wikipedia, even? It has some similarities to the
>> scientific method, I suppose, but I'm not sure that's what we imagine
>> ourselves to be doing. Science is part of the knowledge we are
>> compiling, certainly. But neutral point of view is not a kind of
>> knowledge itself. Rather, it is an approach to knowledge, one that has
>> served us well and, as far as I can tell, runs through the culture of
>> all our projects.
> There are many approaches to knowledge and one of them is scientific.
> Encyclopedic approach is a derivative of the scientific approach. NPOV
> is one (good) encyclopedic approach.
> But, out of Wikipedia, we have other projects, which are not
> encyclopedias. Implementing encyclopedic approach to, let's say,
> dictionary, may fit up to some extent. Implementing encyclopedic
> approach to writing books is just wrong. But, implementing it on
> fields of knowledge which should deal with approaches to knowledge is
> totalitarian.
> If our approach is not scientific, then it the approach is ideological
> (including religious). I hope that you don't think that NPOV has some
> fundamental differences from other encyclopedic approaches which are
> based on lexicographical methods.
The scientific approach can be just as ideological and totalitarian as 
the religious. A lexicographical approach strikes me as based on 
semantics divorced from reality.  The bare claim that one's approach is 
scientific is often no more than a rhetorical device for supporting 
one's point of view.  In reality the scientific approach is a subset of 
NPOV, where it is balanced with other approaches. An encyclopedic 
approach has more to do with comprehensiveness than neutrality; an 
ideological encyclopedia can be comprehensive within defined parameters 
without being neutral.

I begin from the premise that NPOV must apply to all WMF projects 
without exception.  What that means to different sister projects is 
quite variable.  The broad applicability to Wikipedias is much clearer 
and more established than in other projects.  In the others it is much 
less obvious, and the disputes on Wikisource relating to NPOV are a much 
smaller proportion than on other projects.  If NPOV is accepted as a 
broad principle it is the responsibility of each project to define how 
it applies to that project.


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