I began this list in August 2013, when I wrote a series of posts in preparation for a first-year writing course focusing on Wikipedia. I started with an overview, then considered the relationships between Wikipedia and experts and between Wikipedia and universities, and wrote about controversies surrounding Wikipedia. I’ve also written several other posts about Wikipedia.
I’ve been awarded a technology integration grant for 2014-15, and I’ll be using it to redesign my Wikipedia course. Wikipedia is constantly being edited: you can see a real-time world map of edits, or even listen to an audio version. Because the site changes so fast, no list of coverage could ever be complete. If you know of an interesting article about Wikipedia that you think should be covered here, please let me know in the comments!
Note, August 20 2014: I’ve relocated this information to our course website, and won’t update this page further. But I’m still very interested if you have recommendations for articles to cover.
I’ve grouped articles by year, in reverse chronological order. I’ve limited myself to articles about Wikipedia, though the site is also a wealth of information about itself, in surprising ways (it lists hoaxes, for example, and engages in some self-criticism.)
In my view, the top five must-reads are:
- Maria Bustillos “Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert” (The Awl, 2011). Bustillos looks at Wikipedia through the lens of Marshall McLuhan, and argues that the site reflects a shift in how we think about knowledge and expertise.
- Stacy Schiff, “Know it All“(New Yorker, 2006). Celebrating Wikipedia’s one-millionth article, Schiff’s insightful description of the site focuses on founder Jimmy Wales and explores the oddity of anonymous editors, leading to the “Essjay controversy.”
- Nicholson Baker, “The Charms of Wikipedia” (New York Review of Books, 2008) is ostensibly a review of Broughton’s manual on using Wikipedia, but quickly digresses into an entertaining discussion of vandalism and page deletion.
- Simon Owens, “The battle to destroy Wikipedia’s biggest sockpuppet army.” (Daily Dot, October 2013). A detailed expose of Wiki-PR and the problem of professionally edited Wikipedia pages.
- Andrew Leonard, “Wikipedia’s Shame” and “Revenge, Ego, and the Corruption of Wikipedia” (Salon, 2013). Starting with Amanda Filipacchi, who brought national attention to Wikipedia’s inherent gender bias, Leonard exposes the malice of anonymous Wikipedians and the real-world consequences of their edits.
New York Times writer Noam Cohen writes about the site whenever it makes the news in an interesting way, and I’ve grouped together his articles for each year. And though I have listed only a couple articles from Wikipediocracy, the site claiming “to shine the light of scrutiny into the dark crevices of Wikipedia and its related projects,” the articles there are often very good.
Though there are numerous academic studies of Wikipedia, I’ve mostly limited this list to popular-press articles. The choice is governed partly by my teaching: my students create and evaluate a list of peer-reviewed articles, and having them all in one place defeats part of the purpose.
Gregory Kohs, “Google’s Knowledge Graph Boxes: killing Wikipedia?” (Wikipediocracy, January 2014). Kohs looks at a new feature of Google that means less traffic is directed to Wikipedia. The comments section contains an interesting conversation about what this might mean for the two websites (see below for more theories about their connection)
Aaron Sankin, “Bots have conquered Wikipedia — and that’s a good thing.” (Daily Dot, February 2014). Most edits on the site are made automatically, which Sankin sees as a feature rather than a bug.
Andreas Kolbe, “Why do people contribute to Wikipedia?” (Wikipediocracy, March 2014). Kolbe offers a more interesting and detailed answer to this question than Jimmy Wales’s trite “because it’s awesome.”
Nigel Scott, “Wikipedia: where truth goes to die.” (Spiked, April 2014). Scott rehashes some of the major criticisms of Wikipedia, focusing on its susceptibility to vandalism and manipulation and its Byzantine system for editing and resolving disputes.
Meghan Duffy, “Using Wikipedia in the classroom: a cautionary tale.” (Dynamic Ecology, May 2014)) A professor at the University of Michigan, Duffy shares her experience with a Wikipedia assignment, in which her student was bullied by Wikipedia editors. At this point such assignments are sufficiently common that several other instructors responded to share their own experiences.
Claire Potter, “Prikpedia? Or, Looking for the Women on Wikipedia” (The Chronicle, March 2013)
Amanda Filipacchi, “Wikipedia’s Sexism Toward Female Novelists” (New York Times, April 2013). Novelist Filipacchi made headlines when she notice a troubling categorical change on Wikipedia.
Adeline Koh and Roopika Roksa, “How to Create Wikipedia Entries that Will Stick,” Postcolonial Digital Humanities, April 2013)
Adrianne Wadewitz, “Wikipedia is pushing the boundaries of scholarly practice but the gender gap must be addressed” (HASTAC, April 2013). Adrianne Wadewitz, who passed away in 2014, was among the leaders in bringing Wikipedia into the college classroom. An active Wikipedian herself, she worked hard to fight the site’s inherent gender biases.
Nathalie Collida and Andreas Kolbe, “Wikipedia’s culture of sexism — it’s not just for novelists” (Wikipediocracy, May 2013)
Benjamin Wittes and Stephanie Leutert, “On Wikipedia, Lawfare, Blogs, and Sources” (Harvard National Security Journal, May 2013)
Adeline Koh, “How to Organize Your Own Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon” (Chronicle, May 2013)
Mark Bernstein, “Wikipedia’s Emergency,” (markbernstein.org, May 2013)
David Bamman, Brendan O’Connor, and Noah A. Smith. “Learning Latent Personas of Film Characters.” School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University. ( 51st Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, August 2013)
Tim Sampson, “How pro-fascist ideologues are rewriting Croatia’s history.” (Daily Dot, October 2013).
Simon Owens, “The battle to destroy Wikipedia’s biggest sockpuppet army.” (Daily Dot, October 2013). A detailed expose of Wiki-PR and the problem of professionally edited Wikipedia pages.
Tom Simonite, “The Decline of Wikipedia.” (MIT Technology Review, October 2013). Simonite investigate the dwindling number of Wikipedia contributors.
David Mikiks, “The rise of Wikipedia, the decline of student writing.” (Daily Dot, October 2013). Mikiks attributes students’ bland writing style to the online encyclopedia.
In 2013, New York Times columnist Noam Cohen wrote about med schools offering credit for improving Wikipedia articles,
James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (2012). Contains a great chapter on Wikipedia.
Timothy Messer-Kruse, “The ‘Undue Weight’ of Truth on Wikipedia” (The Chronicle of Higher Education, February 2012). Despite having written two books and several articles on the Haymarket Riots, Messer-Kruse found himself blocked from editing the entry.
Neil Ungerleider, “Wikipedia Goes to College,” (Fast Company, April 2012)
Philip Roth, “An Open Letter to Wikipedia,” (New Yorker, September 2012). Unable to change his own Wikipedia entry, Roth found himself publishing this letter so that a basic fact about himself was part of the public record, and therefore verifiable in Wikipedia.
Maria Bustillos, “Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert” (The Awl, May 2011). Joining the chorus of articles about Marshal McLuhan in the centennial year of his birth, Bustillos links the Canadian philosopher’s ideas to the online encyclopedia.
Matt Honan, “Why Ratings Will Ruin Wikipedia” (Gizmodo, July 2011). Explores a new (and soon-to-be-defunct) feature of the site.
Jonathon Keats, “Why Wikipedia Is as Important as the Pyramids” (Wired, November 2011). Keats argues that Unesco should add Wikipedia as a World Heritage site.
In January Noam Cohen wrote “Wikipedia Ponders Its Gender-Skewed Contributions,” predating the “Filipacchi Affair” that brought Wikipedia’s gender biases into public discourse. Cohen also wrote about Sarah Palin’s Paul Revere comments, and Wikipedia’s reaction.
Joseph Michael Reagle, Jr. Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia (2010). The whole text of Reagle’s book is available online.
Mathew Ingram, “Google and Wikipedia: Separated at Birth?” (Businessweek, February 2010)
Noam Cohen wrote about Wikipedia and spoilers.
Ira Matetsky, guests posts for The Volokh Conspiracy (May 2009). Matetsky explores legal questions about Wikipedia and living persons.
Andrew Dalby, The World and Wikipedia: How We are Editing Reality (2009)
Dan O’Sullivan, Wikipedia: A New Community of Practice? (2009). A historical and philosophical look at Wikipedia: academic, but accessible.
Nicholson Baker, “The Charms of Wikipedia” (New York Review of Books, March 2008). A clever, witty exploration of the online encyclopedia’s appeal.
Olena Medelyan, Catherine Legg, David Milne, and Ian H. Witten, “Mining Meaning from Wikipedia” (2008). These New Zealand researchers survey others’ studies using Wikipedia, studying the site for natural language processing and information retrieval and extraction.
Phoebe Ayers, Charles Matthews, and Ben Yates, How Wikipedia Works: And How You Can Be a Part of It (2008). Like Broughton’s book, a how-to guide capitalizing on Wikipedia’s popularity.
John Broughton, Wikipedia: The Missing Manual (2008)
Roy Rosenweig, “Can History Be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past.” (The Journal of American History 93.1, 2006 and CHNM). The first, and still one of the best, articles about Wikipedia and professional academic research.
Cass R. Sunstein, Infotopia: How Many Minds Produce Knowledge (2006)
Andrew Keen, “Web 2.0” (The Weekly Standard, February 2006). See also Keen’s book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture (2007). The title give away his viewpoint.
Jarod Lanier, “Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism.” (Edge, May 2006). Edge also published a set of responses from Douglas Rushkoff, Quentin Hardy, Yochai Benkler, Clay Shirky, Cory Doctorow, Kevin Kelly, Esther Dyson, Larry Sanger, Fernanda Viegas & Martin Wattenberg, Jimmy Wales, George Dyson, Dan Gillmor, and Howard Rheingold.
Stacy Schiff, “Know It All” (New Yorker, July 2006). An intelligent, wide-ranging study, Schiff’s article helped bring Wikipedia into serious intellectual circles.
Aaron Swartz, “Who Writes Wikipedia?” (aaronsw.com, September 2006). The first in a series of excellent posts by Swartz.
Clay Shirky, “Larry Sanger, Citzendium, and the Problem of Expertise.” (Many 2 Many, September 2006)
Jason Calacanis, “Wikipedia Leaves $100M on the table,” (calacanis.com, October 2006)
Jimmy Wales, “Advertising and Wikipedia” (jimmywales.com, October 2006). Responding to Calacanis, Wales explains why the site doesn’t advertise.
Jimmy Wales, “The Intelligence of Wikipedia” (webcast, Oxford Internet Institute, July 2005). One of the many presentations Wales has given about the site he founded, and for which he remains the figurehead.
John Seigenthaler, “A False Wikipedia ‘Biography,’” (USA Today, November 2005). An early and landmark example of Wikipedia’s negative effect on a living person.
“Internet Encyclopedias Go Head to Head” (Nature, December 2005; behind a paywall). This study found Wikipedia comparable to Britannica, helping usher in the online Encyclopedia’s golden age.
Robert McHenry, “The Faith-Based Encyclopedia” (Ideas in Action, November 2004)
Larry Sanger, “Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism” (Kuro5shin, December 2004). Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, argues that Wikipedia needs experts to contribute.
James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds (2004). An early book about Web 2.0 and crowdsourcing; explores some of the psychological theories behind Wikipedia.
E. D. Hirsch, “You Can Always Look It Up. Or Can You?” (closing address to The Ninth Annual Core Knowledge Conference in Anaheim, CA, March 2000). This isn’t about Wikipedia, per se (the site wasn’t founded until 2001), but it’s an interesting background.