The Wisdom of Crowds(ourcing)

In this second part of Dougherty’s and Nawrotzki’s book, Writing History in the Digital Age, a number of essays dealt with the online publication of historical works.

Leslie Madsen-Brooks argued in ‘I Nevertheless Am a Historian’ that historians may have to adapt their role as teachers. The increase in newly digitized primary sources allows more people to access data that was previously out of reach. However, since most non-historians lack the training or knowledge on how to find and deal with a source’s provenance, it is easy for those laymen to misinterpret them. A collaboration between both groups could prevent this. Additionally, getting involved in historical debates could also improve people’s critical thinking, which then could be applied to other subjects, improving their overall understanding.

Other essays – specifically Shawn Graham’s ‘The Wikiblitz’ and Martha Saxton’s ‘Wikipedia and Women’s History’ – dealt with the fast changes in Wikipedia and the struggle to have newly added information or modifications accepted. Although Wikipedia is theoretically editable by everyone, it is not as easy and open as one would expect. Articles can be in a protected or semi-protected status and are watched by reviewers, interested parties or bots for change; both authors found that modifying existing pages proved to be more difficult than adding new data, which could still fall victim to the prevalent mindset of already established reviewers. Also, both authors tracked their projects after their completion, and found that most of the contributions had either been deleted or moved to other articles, illustrating the transitory nature of digital information.

Nevertheless, one thing that all authors agreed upon was that communication between the participants was mostly swift, even if it was not always professional.


About AMK @ Ryerson

In the past, I was the experienced IT admin and troubleshooter, but the new me is going to be a creative analyst for sustainable solutions (maybe!).
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