Monday, August 07, 2006

Colbert's "Wikiality" - Weakening Chains of Credibility

The chains of credibility are weakening.
Facts and truth are losing the power to sway opinion and decisions.
How can we simultaneously depend on and distrust public sources of information?

Many professions still require the highest standards of evidence, attribution, and reason: librarians, scholars, scientists. They can lead the way to responsible usage of wikis and other rapidly emerging Web options – “Web 2.0,” “Social Networking” etc.. They can re-strengthen the chains of credibility. Who else can help?

Stephen Colbert's humorous pseudo attack on Wikipedia reflects this paradox. He "... praised Wikipedia for its fungible factuality. ...'Wikiality,' the idea that if you claim something to be true and enough people agree with you, it becomes true. ..."
- From: "It's on Wikipedia, So It Must Be True" By Frank Ahrens, Sunday, August 6, 2006; F07



Upcoming online workshop about Wikis:

"It's on Wikipedia, So It Must Be True"

By Frank Ahrens, Sunday, August 6, 2006; F07

"...On Monday's night's "Colbert Report" ...Stephen Colbert praised Wikipedia for its fungible factuality. ...'Wikiality,' the idea that if you claim something to be true and enough people agree with you, it becomes true. ...

"...Wikipedia's peer review comes from a coterie of interested parties -- citizen editors -- on particular topics, and each person can have conflicting interpretations of fact. Such problems have led to Wikipedia recently barring new or anonymous users from editing the entry on Israel, for instance.

"...Colbert then urged viewers to take part in rewriting history and fact.

"...Wikipedia's truth-squadders ... locked down 20 entries on elephants to all but longtime users. They did the same to Colbert's entry, and they barred the screen name StephenColbert from making further changes. The last move is more symbolic than practical; there's no way of knowing whether StephenColbert is the Stephen Colbert -- the real one or the character -- from the show.

"Then Wikipedia took the smart step of posting the pre-Colbert entries alongside the many, many post-Colbert ones to show exactly what was changed and when it was changed by subsequent editors.

"The whole process has a mind-boggling, recursive-loop feel to it, as one Wiki-editor edits an entry and seconds later, another re-edits it. At one point, a post-Colbert entry took on a "yes, you did/no, you didn't" tone. Gaah!

"...If Wikipedia's DNA prevents it from hosting a single standard for truth -- or truthiness -- then its sources of information need to be evident and their tracks easily seen so readers can have as many facts as possible to determine their accuracy. Not, of course, that anyone would or should use Wikipedia -- or really, anything else besides this column -- as a single and authoritative source on any topic.

[ili-l] re: Stephen Colbert v. Wikipedia

a. From Neal, Jason

Date: 2006 13:10:34 -0500; Thread-index: Aca8nEZeOU4GmY72RpaU2jB0QPnHBAAAEaAg

In any case, I don't think the sketch actually tried defaming Wikipedia.

I think it was a pretty tame and witty sketch pointing to its flaws, including the ways in which it could be manipulated for propaganda purposes that distort reality. It also provides a good counterpoint to the uncritical info-libertarianism (and perhaps postmodernism) of those
who sing its praises. As for Colbert's act of "vandalism," I don't think it's any worse than someone posting something totally inaccurate; before the "tonight's word" clip about "Wikiality," Colbert changed some things in his Wikipedia entry to give it more "truthiness." Wikipedia also leaves itself open to similar acts of vandalism (or "vandalism"), which requires a level of vigilance that more static resources don't need.

However, looking at the other side of Wikipedia's flexibility, it also has the potential to be much more in-depth than traditional reference resources. It may require more vigilance and "buy-in" from various constituencies, but a good balance of openness and standards could make Wikipedia a formidable intellectual tool.”

Date: 10 Aug 2006 14:00:00 -0400; References: <>; Thread-index: Aca8nS+UtiXTpUwWRLimZozSZC9NIQACCyL

"I agree with Mark Robertson. It does not serve our students to simply tell them that Wikipedia is bad, and that they shouldn't use it. It does nothing to promote the critical thinking abilities of our students, and is similar to telling them that .edu web sites are always more reliable than .com web sites, ignoring such reputable and valuable web sites as and

Furthermore, Wikipedia is probably more reliable than your average Web site. The following is an article from Nature which compares the reliability of Wikipedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica: "

Ben Turner, Information Literacy Librarian, St. John's University, Jamaica, NY

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