Zapping the telly last Friday night, I caught a programme about Barack Obama and what a strong candidate he would make in the 2008 presidential election. I had heard of him for media spotlights on his ethnic background, but given my general ignorance of the US political climate, I simultaneously googled for more information about him. The screen capture (below) is a Wiki page about him I ran into, which was as usual at the top of the search results.
Yes, it was the first time that I witnessed Wiki vandalism myself. I have just returned to the page while writing this post, and found it now changed back to his name.
According to its own entry, “[Wikipedia] has been criticised for its susceptibility to vandalism, uneven quality, systemic bias and inconsistencies, and for favouring consensus over credentials in its editorial process”. Indeed, I remember there was even an organisation (wikipediaclassaction.org) preparing a class action lawsuit against Wiki for providing misleading information a couple of years ago, which was soon after accused as a commercial scam and now seems to have vanished.
Despite online users’ ever-growing dependence on Wiki, encouraged by articles like one in Nature stating Wikipedia is almost as reliable and accurate as Britannica, a fundamental question still remains unanswered if something constantly modifiable and modified like Wiki can act as an information source. Online news providers are in question, too, for this matter. Throughout my studies including current research, I have interviewed a few professional online journalists, from whose answers I want to find out if there is any difference in their attitudinal take on editorial responsibility when they write via online media from offline ones. I will probably write a separate post about this.
In any case, I am becoming more and more convinced that in the digital era, in which information is a product of collective definition, interpretation and construction, what matters most is activeness. In other words, the real digital divide will not lie along with age, gender or socioeconomic status, but will emerge between those who actually bother taking time out of their busy day to write/rewrite/overwrite on the Net and those who lurk.