The Wikipedia Generation

It is so exciting for me to talk about Wikipedia while sitting in the library and being surrounded by thousands of books. Just a few minutes ago, looking at these books, I wondered how many books a kid of the next generation would read in his lifetime and how all of these cultural and intellectual properties could survive the invasion and expansion of the Internet, and especially something like Wikipedia.

We belong to the Wikipedia generation. It is undeniable that the majority of us have grown up and had a really “close relationship” with Wikipedia. And we love Google too! I have recently thought about how my life would have been different if Google and Wikipedia never existed. Perhaps I would have failed many quizzes in my life since I am not the type of person who would enjoy reading hundreds of pages just to find out the meaning of some scientific terms or to know what had happened to the Pearl Harbor attack for every daily ten-minute quiz. Also, I would have missed some good discussions in class or wonderful conversations with my friends. For instance, nowadays, in a chat between me and my friends, they might mention the name of an actor that they think is hot. In this situation, if I do not know this actor, I can definitely type his name on Google and read a Wikipedia post about him. Perhaps, after two or three minutes, I can catch up with the discussion and after ten to fifteen minutes, I can be an expert who knows about his blood type and even the number of women that he has dated. What would have happened in this situation if I did not have Google and Wikipedia? I would have missed the conversation and felt extremely awkward since I might be the only person who did not know what my friends were talking about. Of course, you can argue that I have the option to ask my friends about that actor to feel less left behind? However, we are all young adults who do not like to appear dumb in front of our peers, as if we are aliens who do not understand the language of humans or do not know what is happening on Earth.

People say information on Wikipedia is updated by amateurs, not professional subject-matter experts. Professors tell us not to do any research on Wikipedia but from scholarly academic journals. However, whether or not Wikipedia is a trustworthy source of information, we still need it. Wikipedia is the good first start for any further research. To many of us, academic journals are only valuable when we know exactly which topics they are discussing. A person who does not have a basic understanding of folksonomy is incapable of reading some scholarly written research papers on it. Therefore, what I am trying to argue here is that we need to evaluate the importance of Wikipedia from different perspectives, for instance, from the perspective of a student who is required to write about something that he or she has not heard of before, or from the perspective of someone who thinks that it is not necessary for him to read many academic journals just to catch up with what his friend is talking about in a conversion. Also, since Wikipedia is a child of the digital age, it inherits one of the most significant characteristics of its mother. Wikipedia is being updated every minute! Because of that, the speech of spreading knowledge is so much faster than it was before, thanks to Wikipedia and the Internet in general. For instance, in the case of an unsolved Math problem recently being answered by a genius Mathematician, it only takes Wikipedia minutes to take off that problem from the list of unsolved ones. On the other hands, it takes a bit longer for magazines and newspaper to spread that news and so much longer for a book to do so.

Perhaps I have used the majority of this post to convince myself and all of us that belonging to the Wikipedia generation is not actually a bad thing. The truth is that I do acknowledge that Wikipedia has somehow transformed many of us into impatient readers and the ones who are so obsessed with instant-noodle type of information. Also, Wikipedia and many other forms of common knowledge might be making us become more greedy and selfish. How many of us are contributing to the process of providing and editing information or all we do nowadays is just getting what we need for free and not caring about who is actually spending their time and intellectual ability to make knowledge available to us? Would we do the same thing if we are scholars who spend our years doing research and make a living from what we have dedicated?


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