Tag Archives: discussion

Wikipedia “Success” and Smart Searching

Some thoughts and questions about Zittrain and Grimmelmann:

This may seem like a strange thing to say, considering the topic of this week’s readings, but I was struck–as I often have been this semester—by how much optimism there is in writing about technology. For all that Jonathan Zittrain’s The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It raises the alarm about the “perfect enforcement” and declines in “generativity,” it also devotes a lot of space to prescriptions and solutions. Given our experiences in this course, I was particularly interested in his ideas in chapter 6, “The Lessons of Wikipedia.” Zittrain is frank about the problems and failures of Wikipedia’s strange structure and operation but he pronounces it overall a “success story,” defining that success by “the survival-even growth-of a core of editors who subscribe to and enforce its ethos, amid an influx of users who know nothing of that ethos” (142). I see his point; Wikipedia is a widely used resource, people know about it and trust it, and it doesn’t often have serious (publicly known) lapses in accuracy. But having recently interacted with the site as an editor for the first time, I feel less inclined to accept Zittrain’s sanguine attitude. My own experience was pretty uneventful but the negative experiences that some of you had with other editors stuck with me. How does our experience as a class match up with Zittrain’s evaluation of Wikipedia?

I found Grimmelmann’s article interesting from a pedagogical perspective because one of the activities that I have integrated in my classes is using Google image searches to help students understand the physical worlds of the plays that we are reading. Students tend to be cavalier about search terms, which often produces results that are totally inappropriate to a play’s geographic or temporal setting. A favorite example of mine is the students who displayed a Greek Orthodox priest for the character of Teiresias, a prophet, in the ancient Greek tragedy Oedipus the King. It only took one question from me–“What is that person wearing around his neck that might suggest that this image is not appropriate for this play?”– for them to realize that they hadn’t been careful enough in their word choice. (The answer, if you can’t immediately call up a mental picture, is a cross. Not an accessory for anyone in 429 BC, the approximate date that the play was written, nor for someone who explicitly worships Apollo.) My students are not stupid, nor are they lazy. Instead it seems to me that they haven’t been taught to think critically about internet searching. I’ve tried to get them to be more critical by asking questions about their results and trying to guide them toward better search terms. Are there ways that any of you have found to engage your students with more thoughtful, critical uses of the internet?

one last thing

this semester I started using Blogs @ Baruch for my class.

Each student needs to write one post regarding the reading and must write two comments.

THey also write by hand in a notebook which I call the Reading Journal. It is very itneresting that although they could be writing the same things in both medias, they don’t. The written by hand pages don’t ‘dare’ to do out of the box… they write very squarish things.

On the other hand in the blog posts the students ‘dare’ to say they dislike the reading, or how they find it. I have also seen that they respond to each other, they help each other out like when we were reading poetry and one student complained how hard it was and how she didn’t understand anything, another student commented on how she could approach it in another way, what she could do to find it easier…

ok, that’s it. too much commenting.


so, how?

The “Getting Real” text was fascinating. It was, indeed, a quick read. Many of the things he mentions are quite obvious, like the “just do it” constant meme invading his pages… others are not so obvious… you would think that wanting to do more, to install more, to be more specific would be better, but according to him and to software development more is not better.

I was thinking of academic careers and how more and less are intertwined. As scholars we are supposed to know more about less and less until we are so über specialized it could be almost impossible to find someone who actually understands what you do.

Obviously the book refers to not want to do too much, if you want to do so much you do it, as he says ‘half assedly’… but isn’t that what we do? what we are expected to do? We are PhD students, we are scholars, we are teachers too, many of us are writers, I am a translator…

I remember when i was about to graduate from my B.A. in Latin American Lit I suddenly realized I wasn’t going to get any jobs because who needs what I studied? so I did a course in translation and interpretation and moved forward. I have the sense that humanities are so little needed that unless you expand your expertise you will go unemployed…

the text is referring to apps, to projects, but I believe we ourselves are projects, aren’t we?

I am just venting a bit of my humanities based frustration out there…

There is also his recommendation of doing it QUICK. Really? when has anything academic been done quickly?

on the other hand, I really liked his advise and I am ready to do it, but… do what? we have thrown ideas out there and we kind of discussed them last class, but they are still ‘out there’. I loved how he says that ideas are worthless unless you actually DO them. So, shall we?

Lastly I loved the links, the tools… oftentimes I feel like in school we are taught things which are not so useful… sigh. Can anyone notice my disenchantment in the academic universe?

I also added to the list of tools on the Kitchen Sink wiki… can any of you add or comment on what you have used?

last but not least: PASSION! So important, but what do you do when you run out?


(as an aside or a P.S. it would be helpful if Maura or Mike broke the ‘readings’ links so that a new tab opens up when clicking on it so you can keep both windows open… look at me and my techie lingo!)