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Wiki-philosophizing in a marketplace of ideas: evaluating Wikipedia's entries on seven great minds
Abstract A very conspicuous part of the new particiA very conspicuous part of the new participatory media, Wikipedia has emerged as the Internet's leading source of all-purpose information, the volume and range of its articles far surpassing that of its traditional rival, the Encyclopedia Britannica. This has been accomplished by permitting virtually anyone to contribute, either by writing an original article or editing an existing one. With almost no entry barriers to the production of information, the result is that Wikipedia exhibits a perfectly competitive marketplace of ideas. It has often been argued that such a marketplace is the best guarantee that quality information will be generated and disseminated. We test this contention by examining Wikipedia's entries on seven top Western philosophers. These entries are evaluated against the consensus view elicited from four academic reference works in philosophy. Wikipedia's performance turns out to be decidedly mixed. Its average coverage rate of consensus topics is 52%, while the median rate is 56%. A qualitative analysis uncovered no outright errors, though there were significant omissions. The online encyclopedia's harnessing of the marketplace of ideas, though not unimpressive, fails to emerge as clearly superior to the traditional alternative of relying on individual expertise for information.g on individual expertise for information.
Added by wikilit team Added on initial load  +
Collected data time dimension Cross-sectional  +
Conclusion "On average, the online encyclopedia captu"On average, the online encyclopedia captured 51% of the expert consensus surrounding the seven philosophers examined; the median rate of coverage was 56%. Except for two of the philosophers, the range was fairly tight and evenly distributed, suggesting that the results were not sensitive to any undue bias in the organization of themes or the selection of authorities. In the two outlier instances, Aquinas and Locke, the low scores were owing to obvious deficits, the absence of elaboration on the five ways of proving God in the first case, and the silence about epistemological issues in the second. From a purely quantitative view, the picture is definitely mixed." (p. 151) "This was generally corroborated in my qualitative analysis. Only the biography components of Wikipedia’s articles were strong―and these arguably too strong. In almost every entry, the proportion of words allocated to the philosopher’s life was always larger than among the authors consulted. This could reflect the fact that contributors to Wikipedia’s philosophy pages have less experience and confidence grappling with philosophical analysis. It may be that, compared to academic philosophers, Wikipedians on average find it less pleasurable to engage philosophic arguments and prefer to focus on the characters and histories of famous personages. No doubt, too, biography involves factual matters that raise fewer disputes than the interpretation of philosophy. A tendency, too, could be espied towards the documentation of quirky facts, as we saw, for example, with the history of Kant’s tomb and the relative location of the cottage in which Locke was born. All this meant that the most important aspect of each philosopher, that which precisely renders them famous and entitled to having their biographic details recorded for posterity―that is to say, what they thought and why they thought it―receives too little treatment. Nonetheless, I was unable to uncover any outright errors. The sins of Wikipedia are more of omission than commission. Nor did I identify a systematic under-representation of any one of the sub-disciplines of philosophy, including metaphysics, logic, epistemology, morality, political theory." (p. 152) "Considering that the seven articles were authored by a multitude of individuals, none of whose contributions were conditional on being certified as experts, all of them operating within a very lightly regulated framework―that this seemingly chaotic process ended up capturing just over half of the essential points is something of an astonishing feat. If my study fails conclusively to establish the knowledge generating potential of new participatory media like Wikipedia to harness market forces in the arena of ideas, its achievements thus far cannot be entirely dismissed. Nevertheless, based at least on the material I studied, Plato’s model of an intellectual elite remains well-ensconced." (p. 153)al elite remains well-ensconced." (p. 153)
Data source Wikipedia pages  +
Google scholar url  +
Has author George Bragues +
Has domain Philosophy and ethics + , Information science +
Has topic Comprehensiveness +
Issue 1  +
Pages 117-158  +
Peer reviewed Yes  +
Publication type Journal article  +
Published in MediaTropes eJournal +
Research design Content analysis  +
Research questions "In this paper, I aim to test the quality of Wikipedia, sampling ... articles relating to seven top Western philosophers" (p. 117).
Revid 11,184  +
Theories "In Part I, “Plato vs. Markets,” I survey "In Part I, “Plato vs. Markets,” I survey the prevailing modes of knowledge production and distribution that Wikipedia is challenging with its competitive market model. The theoretical underpinnings of this model are also discussed in Part I, as is the empirical record educed thus far by journalists and scholars regarding Wikipedia’s quality." (p. 118)s regarding Wikipedia’s quality." (p. 118)
Theory type Analysis  +
Title Wiki-philosophizing in a marketplace of ideas: evaluating Wikipedia's entries on seven great minds
Unit of analysis Article  +
Url  +
Volume 2  +
Wikipedia coverage Main topic  +
Wikipedia data extraction Live Wikipedia  +
Wikipedia language English  +
Wikipedia page type Article  +
Year 2009  +
Creation dateThis property is a special property in this wiki. 14 August 2012 22:13:46  +
Categories Comprehensiveness  + , Philosophy and ethics  + , Information science  + , Publications with missing comments  + , Publications  +
Modification dateThis property is a special property in this wiki. 20 February 2014 12:24:13  +
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