Sinead Meehan-Editing a Wikipedia article

Like any student, I have used Wikipedia many times for a basic answer to a question or concept that I may be unfamiliar with.  In the case of this assignment, I’ve decided to edit a page related to my own field; artist Andrei Molodkin. I choose to edit this page as there were no images of his work or any information to do with his 2013 exhibition in Derry, Catholic Blood.

As an undergraduate student, we came across movements and concepts in contemporary art theory that could be confusing. Early in my studies these included ideas such as Constructivism, Conceptualism and Sensationalism, and apart from asking our lecturers, our first reaction was to log onto Wikipedia for a basic but generally good idea of what the term meant.

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Creating an account is extremely straightforward; you simply input a username and a password. No validation of your existence other than that is required, which is both a good and possibly a bad thing. On the one hand it invites users to engage with the site, however there are no real repercussions for those who abuse the site and the quality of an article may be compromised because of its open access nature. Despite this, it is an incredible resource for anyone of any back ground, providing information without prejudice. The site allows you to communicate with others on Wikipedia and track any edits made to articles you have participated with. The editing function allows you to edit the source code or to edit on-screen, and simply add to the article as you see it. It’s important to note that the site strongly encourages referencing and citation as Wikipedia is a fact based site, not platform for personal opinion and debate. It is designed to be simple to use, and the editing page clearly outlines how to include citations and links. There is a feeling of being guided through the site, meaning that it is suitable and easy for those with limited digital skills. However, it does often lack the positive aspects of scholarly editing, such as basing information on solid references and sources as well as relating that information in an educated, coherent way.

Before:

This is the article before I made any edits:

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I felt there was not enough information about the Molodkin show in Derry, 2013 during the City of Culture celebrations. I added a block of referenced information along with an image I took while the exhibition was in place in the Gallery. Adding an image was also extremely straightforward and very beneficial to the article.

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IMG_1703

After:

This is the article after I made the edits:

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This is not my first time editing a Wikipedia article. My first foray into editing the site happened because of a general lack of trust we often have surrounding Wikipedia. We did an experiment a few years ago to see how long a wrongfully edited page would remain. We changed the location of J.F Kennedy’s assassination to Dublin, and made other little changes we felt might not be noticed instantly. We were wrong, and received notice moments later about “blatant and obvious abuse of the site”. Our edits were then swiftly removed and repaired. The quick reaction actually made me trust Wikipedia quite a bit more. This is a site that supports open access and information sharing, and because there are so many eyes involved in the creation of pages on the site it also means that flaws are often easily noticed. For now my edits remain.

What does this mean for the role of the editor?

Possibly, it decentralised this idea. It takes the power of editing away from a reletively small group of ‘educated’ people, and allows the public to actively engage with information and content creation. It subverts many well established practices of information distribution, where a sole editor or governing/deciding body is responsible for what information we see and consume. Wikipedia is composed by its users and each member has the power of editor; not sole editor but collaborative editor. Personally I believe that although the role of editor will change and is undergoing changes, their role is still important. As stated earlier, Wikipedia is a fantastic source of information but it is not typically considered the most reliable source in academic writing for many of the same reasons that the site is also a possitive thing. People can edit at will, but at what cost to the quality of the information. The public can write openly but perhaps use citations of dubious quality to validate a bias or incorrect statement. There are many possitives and negatives to using a site such as Wikipedia, and when thinking of academic writing it is probably wise to not solely rely on this site or any one source in particular. Seek other sources of credited information to form an educated opinion.

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