I recently heard a radio interview with Timothy Messer-Kruse, describing his experience editing the wikipedia article on the Haymarket trial. (He had earlier described the same experience in the Chronicle of Higher Education, online here.)
The striking point is that his edits on wikipedia were repeatedly reverted because they were based on and supported by primary evidence. Wikipedia is, by design, intended to reflect consensus opinions as reflected in secondary publications. This is a horrible inversion of the way history should be studied and presented — one that wikipedia shares with encyclopedias in general, including distinguished specialized encyclopedias like the Oxford Classical Dictionary.
While I don't like encyclopedias, I love the crowd-sourced part of wikipedia. So what if we created a "wikicite" for classical studies? Imagine a wiki where only primary sources were allowed: no reference to any kind of secondary publications permitted. You are of course welcome to read them on your own time, and maybe even learn something from them, but to post to wikicite, you would actually have to work back to the primary sources, and confront evidence you could cite.
That would be revolutionary.
Monday, October 8, 2012
Posted by Neel Smith at 2:46 AM