Wikipedia for justice

Scales of justice

By Nerun (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I have written before about the wise use of Wikipedia.  Booth (2014) highlights assignments where students create well-researched Wikipedia entries or edit existing ones.  These assignments serve a twofold purpose.

First of all students get experience writing for audiences other than the instructor.  This exposure may prepare students for workplace writing tasks.  Gordon (2014) tells the story of medical students editing Wikipedia articles and learning how to explain the science to patients.

Secondly learners get to use their access to library resources for  larger social purposes.  The research reaches an audience who may not have access to college libraries (Booth, 2014).  In a university community we can easily take such library resources for granted.  For certain topics the research can even fill gaps in Wikipedia’s coverage, as in the case of Howard University students adding content on African American history (Smith, 2015).

Of course Wikipedia editing doesn’t work for all types of research projects.  Since it relies on published sources, for example, it would not work for many types of primary research (Gordon, 2014).  Still, given the large numbers of people who use Wikipedia, why not use it for justice?

References

Booth, C. (2014, December 1). On information privilege [Blog post].  Retrieved from https://infomational.wordpress.com/2014/12/01/on-information-privilege/

Gordon, L. (2014, June 14).  Wikipedia pops up in bibliographies, and even college curricula.  The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-wikipedia-20140615-story.html#page=1

Smith, J. F. (2015, February 19).  Howard University fills in Wikipedia’s gaps in black history.  The New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/20/us/at-howard-a-historically-black-university-filling-in-wikipedias-gaps-in-color.html