Wiki / Wikipedia

"A wiki [. . .] is a web application that allows users to add content, as on an Internet forum, but also allows others (often completely unrestricted) to edit the content. The term Wiki also refers to the collaborative software used to create such a website " (Wikipedia, 2005a).


"Wikipedia is a multilingual, Web-based, free-content encyclopedia written collaboratively by volunteers and operated by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation based in St. Petersburg, Florida. It has editions in about 200 languages (about 100 of which are active). " (Wikipedia, 2005b). Jimmy Wales is the founder of Wikipedia.


Wikipedia has been compared with Encyclopedia Britannica in an article in Nature. See Giles (2005), Encyclopedia Britannica (2006) and Nature's response March 23, 2006.


"A diametric contrast [to the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, Vol. 1-26, Elsevier, 2001] would be Wikipedia, a free Internet encyclopaedia in which entries can be written by anyone who so wishes. This openness and de-authorization of the cult of experts is coupled with an open editing system: anyone can over-write an entry. While there is a clear gain in open public participation and dialogue about entries, with the Wikipedia conceived as an open site constantly being built, re-built and dismantled, the minimal central editing and open invitation to rewrite is burdened with problems of validity. The need to validate a trustworthy source can be seen as part of a more general problem about the knowledge people take from the Internet. Yet, like the Elsevier encyclopaedia, Wikipedia is low on inter-disciplinarity and innovation, since it follows traditional disciplinary divisions which tend to favour the reproduction of knowledge. A key question, then, is how to encourage greater flexibility in the evaluation process whilst resisting existing patronage networks, knowledge monopolies and the reproduction of established classifications. We need to find practical ways to avoid one-way flows of global knowledge in the form of ‘theory’ from dominant centres, which franchise sub-centres and representatives around the world. Important here is the encouragement of innovation and the incorporation of knowledge which doesn’t fit existing classifications. From our perspective, as we contemplate the construction of digital archives, with hypertext links and speed of search and access, the challenge is to understand the medium. That is, we cannot assume the Internet or a notional global digital encyclopaedia to be a neutral content delivery system." (Featherstone & Venn, 2006, p. 10).






Chesney, T. (2006). An empirical examination of Wikipedia’s credibility.  First Monday, 11(11), URL:


Encyclopedia Britannica (2006). Fatally Flawed. Refuting the recent study on encyclopedic accuracy by the journal Nature. Nature's response March 23, 2006:


Featherstone, M. & Venn, C. (2006). Problematizing Global Knowledge and the New Encyclopaedia Project An Introduction. Theory, Culture & Society, 23(2-3), 1-20.


Giles, J. (2005). Special Report: Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature, 438, 900-901. Available:

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2005a). Wiki.


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2005b). Wikipedia.


Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. (2005c). Wikipedia: Provenance.






Birger Hjørland

Last edited: 08-12-2006