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Are We Ready to Use Wikipedia to Teach Writing?
Inside Higher Ed, DC
By Robert E. Cummings Several years ago I started asking students in my composition classes to compose entries for Wikipedia. Most of my students were familiar with Wikipedia as the most popular link at the top of a Web page after a Google search. ...


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Moulton
Two Models of Wikipedia

Posted by Barry Kort , Visiting Scientist
Affective Computing Research Group, MIT Media Lab
March 12, 2009 at 8:00am EDT


There are two models of Wikipedia to consider.

The first model, which is the official one, is that Wikipedia is an authentic encyclopedia that seeks to compile and publish the sum of all human knowledge.

The second model, which is more diagnostic of the actual workings of the site, is that it functions as a dramaturgy workshop for those engaged in the ofttimes contentious process of determining what subjects are worthy of articles and what content to include in those articles.

For many vested participants, the dramaturgy aspect (which is inherently more emotionally charged than the dry academic perspective) becomes the controlling factor in battles over contentious subjects.

If students undertake to write a brief but otherwise encyclopedic article on an obscure subject, the only issue is whether the topic is important enough to warrant an article at all.

But if students wade into a topic where there are multiple contentious points of view, they will find themselves in something akin to a post-modern theater of the absurd, battling against other players with cutesy names like KillerChihuahua, FeloniousMonk, Salmon of Doubt, and Centaur of Attention.

The dramaturgical aspect of Wikipedia becomes apparent to anyone who dips into the project long enough to wander into one the areas of persistent contention.

At that point, the ambience often becomes Kafkaesque, with features reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland or the novels of Fyodor Dostoevsky.

One of the unsung affordances of Wikipedia is to approach it in term of its educational value as a high-energy dramaturgy workshop, especially for students who are interested in character-driven dramas. Pick an avatar who presents themselves as any imaginable storybook character ranging from superhero to supervillain, superanalyst to superfool, superblithe to supervictim, and I guarantee you that within a day or two your worst nightmare antagonist will show up to give you shpilkes in the gennecktegessoink.
Jon Awbrey
I know you think you're being cute, Moulton, but in the end your main effect is merely to miseducate.

Miseducation is something you ought to be against.

Jon Awbrey
Jon Awbrey
QUOTE(Newsfeed @ Thu 12th March 2009, 5:18am) *

My comment … a bit terse, maybe, but not exactly a new one, either …

QUOTE

Be Careful Who You Write For

Any professor who sends students into an experimental field setting like Wikipedia without getting it thoroughly vetted by his Human Subjects Committee, much less having a clue what sorts of miseducation they will really acquire there, should probably be brought up for review.

Please educate yourself, before you further endanger your charges.

Jon Awbrey, 12 March 2009, 8:15am EDT

Moulton
Four more comments have been posted at the site...

QUOTE(Barry Kort)
More Background on Dramaturgy Workshops

Jon raises a good point, that creative writing students who are approaching Wikipedia as a dramaturgy lab should appreciate how Wikipedia functions as a real-time post-modern theater of the absurd.

More information on that can be found here...




QUOTE(Mark A. Wilson @ Professor of Geology at The College of Wooster)
Wikipedia as a resource and an educational tool

Well done, Dr. Cummings. Wikipedia is here to stay and it is time that we in higher education learn to use it effectively. I predict that you are about to receive the same angry comments I received for my previous article on the topic -- and from many of the same people. My short response to those who seem paralyzed by the flaws in a public information system: fix them yourself and train your students how to do the same. As public intellectuals, we have an obligation to share our knowledge and research skills. Wikipedia is a superb place to start.


QUOTE(Judy Harris @ Professor of English at LSC-Tomball)
Wiki sites

My students are warned that any Wiki sites are absolutely forbidden. We have a hard enough time getting them to understand how to find reliable, authoritative sites, much less allowing/encouraging them to use open, unreliable sites. The Wikipedia claim is that they correct misinformation that they find has been put up on the site, but I have found that to be haphazard at best. I have found entries that had serious errors that were on there for a long time. I didn't change them for two reasons: I wanted to see if Wiki or someone else would actually make the corrections, and I felt that students should not be using the sites in the first place. My students are even required to visit LIBRARIES and use HARD COPY sources (what a concept!), and I limit the number of ANY kind of computer sources because I still believe (as dated as this may sound) that there is more to be found OFF the computer than people give credit for. I'd much rather my students be sure they have good stuff than depend on iffy "facts"...


QUOTE(Bryce Bunting)
Who are these scary people we are writing for?

Jon's comments have me worried. I didn't realize there were monsters lurking within the electronic walls of Wikipedia, waiting to devour or otherwise harm students.

Give me a break. Do we really think that participating in an online dialogue is going to harm or "miseducate" students? Isn't it this sort of conversation that we hope students will embrace as a result of their education? Granted, it is different than the sorts of interactions that academics have through peer-reviewed journals, conferences, etc. But, the reality is that most of our students will find themselves in work and life-settings very different from academia. But, they all will need to be positioned to think and converse intelligently with an increasingly diverse community of neighbors, co-workers, and friends about any and all subjects from film to sports to science. Engaging them in open content sites seems like a useful way to do this. If there really were a Human Subjects Committee or Institutional Review Board that would have a serious problem with this, they are the ones that should be brought up for review.

I'm tired of knee-jerk reactions to new technologies that have a lot of promise, particularly from "seasoned" academics that are so closed to new ideas that they won't even take the time to investigate the things they are criticizing. Is wikipedia a magic bullet that if used will pump out great students. No. But, we have a responsibility to investigate ways of using new technologies in a meaningful and pedagogically sound way.

And more...
Jon Awbrey
How Many Knees Could A Knee-Jerk Jerk …

QUOTE

Investigative Resources

Re: "I'm tired of knee-jerk reactions to new technologies that have a lot of promise, particularly from "seasoned" academics that are so closed to new ideas that they won't even take the time to investigate the things they are criticizing."

I speak from experience with new technologies and their promise, and I speak from experience with Wikipedia and its demonstrated failure to live up to its promises.

Re: "we have a responsibility to investigate ways of using new technologies in a meaningful and pedagogically sound way."

Yes, we do.

Educators who are up to meeting their responsibilities, who would trouble themselves to investigate the Internet environments into which they send their students are currently blessed with a lot more help than they had available to them last year.

They might well begin with the following resources:

Akahele — http://akahele.org/

The Wikipedia Review — http://wikipediareview.com/

Jon Awbrey, 12 March 2009, 12:15pm EDT

Jon Awbrey
Several observers appear to be laboring under a mistaken identification of WP with all IT …

QUOTE

On Teaching Grandpa To Suck Eggs

For the sake of a Year 2009 discussion, let's put aside the notion that people who criticize Wikipedia are some sort of Luddite old fogies who just ain't hip to the New Constitution. The critics of Wikipedia that are known to me are rather further ahead of the curve on the use of Web Technologies than many of the uncritics I've been reading here, at least, to judge from the innocence of the latter's remarks. It would be a tragic mistake to think that Wikipedia is a canonical example of "New Technology", or even a very typical example of social media and wiki systems in general.

Jon Awbrey, 12 March 2009, 3:45pm EDT

Jon Awbrey
Remedial Reading …

QUOTE

Character, Conduct, Critical Thinking

JWW,

Yes, I read Mr. Cumming's blogicle.

All of my comments here — like the great majority of my comments on What's Wrong With Wikipedia everywhere else that I've commented — are directed to the practices that learners acquire by participating in particular environments, far and above what they learn by sponging and regurgitating whatever passes for "content" in those settings.

And it is precisely there that What's Wrong With Wikipedia is the Worst that I've seen anywhere.

Jon Awbrey, 12 March 2009, 5:30pm EDT

Jon Awbrey
Further discussion …

QUOTE

Not Exactly Run Of The Mill

Re: "We can invoke John Stuart Mill here, who says that all issues are to be discussed, to either expose the fallacies or to strengthen the truth, which itself is only a partial truth seeking to be more fully realized. We must also, according to Mill, embrace eccentricities such as Wikipedia in our search for truth. I'll go for Mill's perspective (as left wing as I am) over the suppression of information, the blackballing of information, any day."

Hear, Hear! But Only Here …

Critical discussion and divergent perspectives are precisely the things that are most suppressed in Wikipedia. You can take critical examination and integrative inquiry only so far before you run up against the undiscussables of the Wikipedia True Believer, and then you will find yourself subject to the Inquisition, the Index Prohibitorum, and Excommunication.

It is fair to describe Wikipedia as an anthropological field experience. You may not know it, but you are sending your students into an alien culture, one where the actual norms of conduct and discourse radically diverge, not only from their loudly espoused principles and policies, but from the standards and practices that responsible educators should be trying to prepare their students to join. Field experiences do of course go with the territory in many disciplines, but they require due preparation and post-briefings to guard against the dangers of "going native" and failing to assimilate participation with critical observation.

Jon Awbrey, 12 March 2009, 10:00pm EDT

Moulton
The dialogue continues...

QUOTE(Barry Kort)
Content Management and Discontent

Jon Awbrey writes, "Critical discussion and divergent perspectives are precisely the things that are most suppressed in Wikipedia. You can take critical examination and integrative inquiry only so far before you run up against the undiscussables of the Wikipedia True Believer, and then you will find yourself subject to the Inquisition, the Index Prohibitorum, and Excommunication."

There is a new play that just opened in Boston that dramatizes the "discussion" between Galileo and Pope Urban. As we all know, Urban ultimately used his power and authority to squelch Galileo.

One of the marvelous affordances of Wikipedia is that anyone can adopt the role of Galileo, injecting heretical ideas, well supported by scientific evidence, analysis, and reasoning, and run smack dab into a reactionary Pope Urban.

Now such an experience would be both shocking and exasperating if it occurred today in an authentic academic culture. But if one is studying creative writing and seeking to reconstruct a dramatization of an historical event, there is no better psychodrama workshop than the discussion pages of Wikipedia. If you want to reconstruct the experience of Freedom Riders of the US Civil Rights Era, Wikipedia is your venue, bar none.

As Jon observes, Wikipedia offers an unparalleled "anthropological field experience" to reprise almost any scene in the annals of human political history from the advent of the Rule of Law, Due Process, and Civil Rights to the introduction of the Scientific Method, Hypothesis Testing, and Evidence-Driven Reasoning.

All these advances in civilization and historical paradigm shifts were fought tooth and nail by the powers that be. Where else but in the rough and tumble discussion pages of Wikipedia can a 21st Century student reprise and personally relive those thrilling dramas in a heart-pounding, Kafkaesque theater of the absurd?

Jon Awbrey
Moulton,

I have said that your tactics are miseducational, but I was inaccurate.

They are a prescription for madness.

And not the good kind.

Jon Awbrey
Moulton
I couldn't fail to disagree less.

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Thu 12th March 2009, 10:42pm) *
Moulton, I have said that your tactics are miseducational, but I was inaccurate. They are a prescription for madness.

Let it never be said that I miss a chance to promote the joys of Hypothesis Testing.

Here we have the Null Hypothesis and two competing hypotheses:

H₀: (Null Hypothesis) Moulton's methods have no measurable effect whatsoever.

H₁: (Awbrey's Hypothesis) Moulton's methods are miseducational and a prescription for madness.

H₂: (Alternate Hypothesis) Moulton's methods are educational and a cure for madness.

What is the evidence, analysis, and reasoning to support and/or falsify any of the above hypotheses?

The Punting of the Snark

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ below)
I used to get paid good money for consulting on the use of statistics in research.

I am sorry to learn you are out of work.

QUOTE(Kato @ below)
I opt for:

H₁ - Moulton's methods are miseducational and a prescription for madness.

Taking your lead from previous educational exercises, Moulton, here is my evidence, analysis, and reasoning.

Nihilistic Neurodance

Come join me,
Come join me,
Come join me,
In my dance!

Come join me,
Come join me,
Come join me,
In my prance!

Come slay me,
Come slay me,
Come slay me,
With your lance!

Come flay me,
Come flay me,
Come flay me,
With your rants!

Come join me,
Come join me,
Come join me,
In my dance!

Come join me,
Come join me,
Come join me,
In my prance!

CopyClef 2005 Bonia Shur and Barsoom Tork Associates.
All Wrongs Reversed.
North American Bupkes, Reclusive Internet Dementors.

"At North Amercan Bupkes, we dance with the devil by the pale moonlight."

Jon Awbrey
Moulton,

I used to get paid good money for consulting on the use of statistics in research.

Your set-up is nonsense.

The first one's free.

Jon Awbrey
Kato
QUOTE(Moulton @ Fri 13th March 2009, 3:42am) *

I couldn't fail to disagree less.

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Thu 12th March 2009, 10:42pm) *
Moulton, I have said that your tactics are miseducational, but I was inaccurate. They are a prescription for madness.

Let it never be said that I miss a chance to promote the joys of Hypothesis Testing.

Here we have the Null Hypothesis and two competing hypotheses:

H₀: (Null Hypothesis) Moulton's methods have no measurable effect whatsoever.

H₁: (Awbrey's Hypothesis) Moulton's methods are miseducational and a prescription for madness.

H₂: (Alternate Hypothesis) Moulton's methods are educational and a cure for madness.

What is the evidence, analysis, and reasoning to support and/or falsify any of the above hypotheses?


I opt for:

H₁ - Moulton's methods are miseducational and a prescription for madness.

Taking your lead from previous educational exercises, Moulton, here is my evidence, analysis, and reasoning.
Jon Awbrey
Serving Suggestion …

QUOTE

Re: "Jon, given that the nature of the assignment is to write not cite Wikipedia, do you have a suggestion for another existing venue that meets the same *compositional* goals?"

I think that it would be worth your while to explore the resources of Google's Knol Site:

http://knol.google.com/

For one thing, the WYSIWYG editing tools at Knol will save your students the overhead in time and frustration that it takes to learn the idiosyntactic details of Wikipedia's Wiki-Pidgin dialect.

More importantly for the purposes of a class project, Knol provides a lot more flexibility in the ways that you can configure the collaboration model for your own co-authorship groups.

In addition, you can protect your group's intellectual property rights by choosing your own licensing protocol.

Finally, you have the ability to invite reviewers on a voluntary basis rather than being forced to rumble, er, negotiate with whatever juvenile gang happens to spy you on their turf.

Jon Awbrey, 13 March 2009, 8:45am EDT

Moulton
More commentary...

QUOTE(Ronald Dumsfeld @ Wikinews)
Full-time trolls

Any article, any blog post, and quite often any casual online comment just seems to bring out the same people with their pre-ground axes ready to attack Wikipedia.

A sure-fire way to pick out these people is things like linking to Wikipedia Review. They portray it as a reasoned critique of Wikipedia, when it is in fact just a glorified bulletin board where the disaffected gather and whinge about Wikipedia rejecting their pet theories, or refusing to accept their blog posts as credible sources.

Yes, Wikipedia has faults, but it will certainly not be improved by cow-towing to people who wave about their academic status or qualifications and demand respect. One of the most prolific posters in the above comments is better known to the Wikipedia community as user "Moulton". Banned on Wikipedia. Banned on Wikiversity. Banned on Wikinews. Might just be a teensy bit biased when it comes to commenting on anyone using Wikipedia?

If you are serious about trying to work with Wikipedia in an academic environment, I would strongly recommend looking at the work of professor Jon Beasley-Murray. His students were set the task of writing articles on Spanish literature, and bringing them up to "good" or "featured" status.

The students who worked on this project went away with a far greater understanding of how to use Wikipedia, how to assess the reliability of any article they read on it, and admitted they were challenged to write to a far higher standard than your average term paper.

Jon's Wikipedia page is here.

"Ronald Dumsfeld" is obviously a pseudonym of a prominent editor on Wikinews. My guess is that Mr. Dumsfeld is either Brian McNeil or someone closely associated with him at Wikinews. (See also his similar appearance a year ago in the comments here.)

In any event, here is my response to his trolling...

QUOTE(Barry Kort)
Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us

Re: Full-time trolls ...

See: Malwebolence: The Trolls Among Us

Socrates vs. Pseudocrates

Trolls employ what M.I.T. professor Judith Donath calls a “pseudo-naïve” tactic, asking stupid questions and seeing who rises to the bait.

Socratic educators are high-functioning "trolls" by most popular definitions.

I define a troll as "someone who asks an arresting question you'd rather not have to answer."

The main reason Socratic interlocutors ask such questions is to highlight questionable beliefs that are ripe for exposure as haphazard "flights of fancy" rather than scientifically grounded hypotheses supported by solid evidence and sound reasoning.

Unlike Donath's definition in the NY Times, the questions asked by Socratic "trolls" are not stupid questions at all.

So why do those laboring under unsustainable misconceptions and delusional beliefs rush to label such insightful and didactic Socratic questions as trollish stupid questions?

(That's not a rhetorical question. I'd really like to know.)

And is there a reliable way to distinguish Socrates from Pseudocrates?


And one more comment...

QUOTE(Andrej Starkis @ Assistant Professor of Law at Massachusetts School of Law)
The naysayers are wrong

As a fellow who teaches writing to would-be lawyers, I commend you. Most of the students I see don't understand -- because they've never been taught -- that writing is at its core a form of communication, not a form of expression. At most, they've heard about the "audience" (a terrible, misleading word that ought to be exiled to stand-up-only use). What that word conjures up for them is anyone's guess, but it's certainly not human.

I have little use for Wikipedia myself, but I've encountered no finer use than that to which you're putting it. It's a shame that the knee-jerk naysayers can't see past their own negative reactions long enough to realize that, as a bonus, your students are learning the limitations of Wikipedia in a way that will stay with them long after they're beyond the range of shrill admonitions.

Andy Starkis

Jon Awbrey
Same Ole Same Ole …

QUOTE

When the Knee-Jerk is on the Other Foot

Labels like "knee-jerker" and "nay-sayer" serve the rhetorical purpose of suggesting that the labelees lack experience with what they criticize. Unless the labelers have more than their own presumptions on that score, then it is they who are denying themselves sources of information that might just save them the grief of having to gain that experience on their own.

That is what communication is all about — is it not? — learning from the experiences of others?

Jon Awbrey, 13 March 2009, 11:45am EDT

Somey
The thing that's getting lost in these blog comments by the pro-WP crowd is something that, to me, should be quite obvious: Wikipedia loyalists (i.e., The Faithful) don't realize the massive extent of the problems they'll encounter if acceptance of Wikipedia in academic environments becomes widespread. They should be trying to avoid it as long as possible, if not actively prevent it. Instead, as usual, they're unable to comprehend the sheer size of the world: "Academia" isn't just a few people with blogs and some spare time, academia is huge, comprised of literally millions of people worldwide, whose interests are diverse enough to touch on at least half of the articles Wikipedia currently carries. (And that's assuming they don't get into the Pokemon and Doctor Who stuff too, just for laughs.) Their attitude seems to be "the more the merrier, no matter what the cost," and "we'll manage somehow!" I'm sorry, but they won't manage - they're just not set up for it. They're not even set up for the numbers and types of users they have now.

As it is, WP can barely handle one or two organized student-editing projects at a time without generating drama. Imagine having hundreds or even thousands of such projects going on concurrently... It would overwhelm the admins and drive away vested contributors by the score. As it stands now, a typical "finished-looking" WP article probably has anywhere from 4 to 10 people watching it - what happens when that number increases to 40 or 50, with most of the editors motivated by the need for a grade? What happens when multiple student projects are working on (i.e., competing over) the same sets of articles?

And needless to say, this is putting aside all the negative publicity that will be generated when many of these student "experiments" end up revealing more about WP's utterly dysfunctional internal processes and politics than they do about how knowledge is shared in the Modern Age.

I'd say the average college professor can be forgiven for not knowing that the WP environment is rife with gamesmanship, petty politics, and territorialism, but a loyal WP editor can't really be forgiven for thinking that an influx of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of disinterested college students on a semi-annual basis would be a good thing from their own perspective. That's just stupid, it's as simple as that.
Jon Awbrey
QUOTE(Somey @ Fri 13th March 2009, 12:46pm) *

I'd say the average college professor can be forgiven for not knowing that the WP environment is rife with gamesmanship, petty politics, and territorialism, but a loyal WP editor can't really be forgiven for thinking that an influx of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of disinterested college students on a semi-annual basis would be a good thing from their own perspective. That's just stupid, it's as simple as that.


Nice analysis … but … what part of "True Believer" don't let's grok ???

I'm Going To Ban Them All, Sir !!!


Ja Ja boing.gif
Milton Roe
QUOTE(Moulton @ Fri 13th March 2009, 8:01am) *

And one more comment...

QUOTE(Andrej Starkis @ Assistant Professor of Law at Massachusetts School of Law)
The naysayers are wrong

As a fellow who teaches writing to would-be lawyers, I commend you. Most of the students I see don't understand -- because they've never been taught -- that writing is at its core a form of communication, not a form of expression. At most, they've heard about the "audience" (a terrible, misleading word that ought to be exiled to stand-up-only use). What that word conjures up for them is anyone's guess, but it's certainly not human.

Andy Starkis


Comment: What an odd sentiment from an "academic"! Perhaps English is not this guy's native language? Writing must always be a form of communication to be effective, of course, but what the "effect" is, depends on the purpose of the writing. It might be expository, for entertainment/art, or it may be rhetorical (to convince). There is more "expression" involved in the latter two, to be sure, but expression is always present in any writing, and is a subset of communication, not something that stands in opposition to it.

And what is this guy's objection to the word "audience," especially as a lawyer? Even technical writers speak of audience analysis as a key. Perhaps this lawyer guy is never going to sully himself with trials or appeals and thus will never have the need to convince anybody freely of anything. To be sure, one can use the neutral word "readership", but it lacks something essential, which is that an audience, as is the case with normal public speaking, carries with it the idea of a group of people that you need to continuously convince to free pay attention to you. If they lose interest, wander off, eyes glaze over and shut the book on your screed in the middle, you fail at your primary purpose of communication. If they're not students (perhaps this boob's real problem) you have no way to punish them for that. Instead, when they lose interest in your writing, they essentially punish YOU. Perhaps that's the inhuman thought that benightmares him.

Sorry, Assistant Prof Starkis, but Lord Acton had it right. "Knowledge must be adorned: It must have luster as well as weight, lest it be mistaken for lead instead of gold." Stand-up is HARD.

Milton
Jon Awbrey
QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Fri 13th March 2009, 4:17pm) *

Comment: What an odd sentiment from an "academic"! Perhaps English is not this guy's native language? Writing must always be a form of communication to be effective, of course, but what the "effect" is, depends on the purpose of the writing. It might be expository, for entertainment/art, or it may be rhetorical (to convince). There is more "expression" involved in the latter two, to be sure, but expression is always present in any writing, and is a subset of communication, not something that stands in opposition to it.

And what is this guy's objection to the word "audience," especially as a lawyer? Even technical writers speak of audience analysis as a key. Perhaps this lawyer guy is never going to sully himself with trials or appeals and thus will never have the need to convince anybody freely of anything. To be sure, one can use the neutral word "readership", but it lacks something essential, which is that an audience, as is the case with normal public speaking, carries with it the idea of a group of people that you need to continuously convince to free pay attention to you. If they lose interest, wander off, eyes glaze over and shut the book on your screed in the middle, you fail at your primary purpose of communication. If they're not students (perhaps this boob's real problem) you have no way to punish them for that. Instead, when they lose interest in your writing, they essentially punish YOU. Perhaps that's the inhuman thought that benightmares him.

Sorry, Assistant Prof Starkis, but Lord Acton had it right. "Knowledge must be adorned: It must have luster as well as weight, lest it be mistaken for lead instead of gold." Stand-up is HARD.

Milton


Oh, don't get your briefs in a bunch — it's probably just Essjay.

Ja Ja boing.gif
EricBarbour
Image
Jon Awbrey
QUOTE

Wikipedia Culture

Make no mistake about it, the Culture of Wikipedia is alien to the values of a civil society, a free press, and a liberal education that most of us, I'm guessing, have spent our lives trying to advance.

I am well aware that the deviations between the respective value systems may seem slight at first — in large part because of the dissembling mimicry that Wikipedists use to camouflage their real character — but the divergence in values is decisive and radical.

And so we have Secretary Dumsfeld to thank for importing dominant elements of Wikipedia Culture into our midst, specifically, the use of baby talk about "trolls" to defame anyone who dares to criticize their glorious enterprise, as always, hiding behind silly pseudonyms as a way of avoiding responsibility for their statements.

Jon Awbrey, 15 March 2009, 8:04pm EDT

Milton Roe
QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Fri 13th March 2009, 7:55pm) *

QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Fri 13th March 2009, 4:17pm) *

Comment: What an odd sentiment from an "academic"! Perhaps English is not this guy's native language? Writing must always be a form of communication to be effective, of course, but what the "effect" is, depends on the purpose of the writing. It might be expository, for entertainment/art, or it may be rhetorical (to convince). There is more "expression" involved in the latter two, to be sure, but expression is always present in any writing, and is a subset of communication, not something that stands in opposition to it.

And what is this guy's objection to the word "audience," especially as a lawyer? Even technical writers speak of audience analysis as a key. Perhaps this lawyer guy is never going to sully himself with trials or appeals and thus will never have the need to convince anybody freely of anything. To be sure, one can use the neutral word "readership", but it lacks something essential, which is that an audience, as is the case with normal public speaking, carries with it the idea of a group of people that you need to continuously convince to free pay attention to you. If they lose interest, wander off, eyes glaze over and shut the book on your screed in the middle, you fail at your primary purpose of communication. If they're not students (perhaps this boob's real problem) you have no way to punish them for that. Instead, when they lose interest in your writing, they essentially punish YOU. Perhaps that's the inhuman thought that benightmares him.

Sorry, Assistant Prof Starkis, but Lord Acton had it right. "Knowledge must be adorned: It must have luster as well as weight, lest it be mistaken for lead instead of gold." Stand-up is HARD.

Milton


Oh, don't get your briefs in a bunch — it's probably just Essjay.

Ja Ja boing.gif

If I knew it was Essjay, I'd actually feel better. But I'm pretty sure it's an Essjay mind, hiding in the body of a 30-something associate professor and actually credentialed. And teaching.

Sigh. This is just middle-aged angst. I'm getting to the point that the president of the US is younger than I am, and I can see Emperor's New Clothes even on a lot of Experts in my own field. I see them getting large grants for doing worthless shit. I shoulda specialized more. unsure.gif

Have you ever heard of an eighth-horse? It's a horse that can run a furlong faster than any other horse. No? Well, neither has anybody else. Even if you had a genuine one, they'd laugh at you. wink.gif

Jon Awbrey
QUOTE(Milton Roe @ Sun 15th March 2009, 12:52pm) *

If I knew it was Essjay, I'd actually feel better. But I'm pretty sure it's an Essjay mind, hiding in the body of a 30-something associate professor and actually credentialed. And teaching.

Sigh. This is just middle-aged angst. I'm getting to the point that the president of the US is younger than I am, and I can see Emperor's New Clothes even on a lot of Experts in my own field. I see them getting large grants for doing worthless shit. I shoulda specialized more. unsure.gif

Have you ever heard of an eighth-horse? It's a horse that can run a furlong faster than any other horse. No? Well, neither has anybody else. Even if you had a genuine one, they'd laugh at you. wink.gif


Yeah, maybe that's what I hate so much about Wikipedia. It shoulda been a paradise for retired generalists in the sun — we coulda been the glial cells that held the whole s/he-bang together — instead it's just one anti-therapeutic e-schlock after another.

Jon
Moulton
The latest comment...

QUOTE(Brian @ Associate Prof at Big State U on March 15, 2009 at 5:00pm EDT)
Bored now

Thank you Robert Cummings.

I've used Wikipedia-based writing assignments in my classes for the past five years with great success. I routinely refer students to Wikipedia entries and blog posts for supplemental information. Information literacy a central theme of any class I teach.

So, I had to laugh at the thought of being "written up" for not seeking IRB approval for the use of Wikipedia. Hilarious! Next, you're going to tell me that blogs are unreliable because they're written by people in pajamas with funny screen names. I'm familiar with all of the arguments leveled against Wikipedia in this thread. And I was familiar with them five years ago. It's comforting to note that the anti-Wiki arguments have not gained in sophistication or evidence in the last half decade. It's also comforting that -- just as blogs have gained credibility -- more and more of my colleagues are using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

The anti-Wiki trolls are doing a fine job marginalizing themselves -- the rest of us are coming to carry on as if it were 2009.

Jon Awbrey
Inside Higher Ed appears to be censoring comments now. The one I posted this morning has not gone through after a couple of tries.

2 minutes later — Hey! I guess 3 really is the charm.

Jon Awbrey
Jon Awbrey
QUOTE(Moulton @ Sun 15th March 2009, 6:50pm) *

The latest comment

QUOTE(Brian @ Associate Prof at Big State U on March 15, 2009 at 5:00pm EDT)

Bored now

Thank you Robert Cummings.

I've used Wikipedia-based writing assignments in my classes for the past five years with great success. I routinely refer students to Wikipedia entries and blog posts for supplemental information. Information literacy a central theme of any class I teach.

So, I had to laugh at the thought of being "written up" for not seeking IRB approval for the use of Wikipedia. Hilarious! Next, you're going to tell me that blogs are unreliable because they're written by people in pajamas with funny screen names. I'm familiar with all of the arguments leveled against Wikipedia in this thread. And I was familiar with them five years ago. It's comforting to note that the anti-Wiki arguments have not gained in sophistication or evidence in the last half decade. It's also comforting that — just as blogs have gained credibility — more and more of my colleagues are using Wikipedia as a teaching tool.

The anti-Wiki trolls are doing a fine job marginalizing themselves — the rest of us are coming to carry on as if it were 2009.



Big State U, eh?

Gee, do you think he could get us Jesus Shuttlesworth's autograph?

Ja Ja boing.gif
Jon Awbrey
Response to query …

QUOTE

Frizbane,

I'm not sure, but I think Citizendium's entry requirements would prevent students from being full-fledged editors. Things may have changed since the last time I checked. I recall Sanger having started an Eduzendium project, which I'm guessing just from the name might be designed for the purposes we are discussing here.

Sanger is to be credited for trying to fix a couple of the worst bugs in the Wikipedia system, the use of pseudonyms and the alienation of experience, but he is responsible for most of the basic tenets of the Old Time Wikipediot Faith, and he made the mistake, in my judgment, of importing the same tenets whole cloth into Citizendium. And don't get me started on his bureaucratomania …

Then again, Citizendium could hardly do worse than Wikipedia, no matter how hard it tries.

As my own old Lit Prof used to say, "Youse pays your nickel, and youse takes your chances."

Jon Awbrey, 17 March 2009, 5:00pm EDT

Jon Awbrey

Goose Island — Si

Wikipedia — noooo.gif

QUOTE

Actually, It's Spelled "Encyclopædia Britannica"

Re: "Think of what would happen if the Encyclopedia Britannia could be edited by a couple of guys bubbling a few Goose Island Nut Brown Ales, watching PTI, and shooting the breeze on their cell phones."

Then I'm guessing that elementary school students who have to write papers on the U.S. Senate would find themselves faced with sorting fact from fiction, not to mention libel, both subtle and gross, on a recurring basis and on a scale as indicated by the following study:

http://wikipediareview.com/Wikipedia Vandalism Study

Jon Awbrey, 23 March 2009, 8:45am EDT

Jon Awbrey
An Invitation …

QUOTE

Re: Authoritative Sources

John and All,

We are 50+ comments into this conversation, at long last someone (you) cuts through the fog of glamour and glitz to raise one of the most brass tacks issues of scholarship — and my experience tells me that this blip on the Internet radar will long ago have skipped off the edge of most folks' increasingly short attention spans. A week, or a month from now, yet another Internet columnist (perhaps the same one) will write another splash of colour commentary on the same subject — rinse and repeat until our brains are thoroughly sham-poohed.

In hopes of initiating an alternative to all that, I have opened a topic in the Meta-Discussion Forum of The Wikipedia Review, and invite anyone who would like to attempt a more thorough discussion to sign on there:

http://wikipediareview.com/index.php?showtopic=23685

We'll see how it goes …

Jon Awbrey, 05 Apr 2009, 12:00pm EDT

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