Brian Lamb has posted a great set of answers to questions about the use of Wikipedia. As Gardner points out, this is a wonderful synthesis of idealism about the promise of a connected community and the realities of our academic clutures. My favorite phrase is “scratching the itch of our habitual curiosity.” What a great line!
Does Wikipedia really encourage understanding, or is it just us scratching the itch of our habitual curiosity?
Oh, a bit of both I suppose. When you see an incredibly detailed Wikipedia entry on the Klingon language it’s hard not to laugh and roll your eyes. But such cultural quirks should not obscure the genuine pragmatic value of the resource. Nor does it invalidate the super-cool nature of tens of thousands of volunteers working worldwide in good faith to create the best reference work possible. I fail to understand how any public-minded educator can’t be excited and encouraged by this phenomenon.
Incidentally, I think that fostering a sense of “habitual curiosity” and tapping its energy is a noble and worthwhile mission, especially for educators.