When Wikipedia falls apart, is that a warning that the rest of society is about to fall apart?
In my Critical Social Media Practices class, we were having a lesson on Wikipedia: how to track users changing it, who contributes the most, what articles get argued over the most, and how bots work to correct articles after trolls have changed text or other harassment has occurred.
Side note, Wikipedia can be hilariously tongue-in-cheek about itself:
But, on a more serious note, we talked in class about when figures of authority–the knowledge-makers, the fact-givers, the truth-asserters–begin to knowingly and purposefully lie, manipulate the truth, or otherwise attempt to deceive (cough Donald Trump and Sean Spicer and Kellyanne Conway), who can we trust? Our fellow human? Then, I would think, Wikipedia is the greatest source of truth and knowledge.
That is, since Wikipedia’s articles are written by crowdsourcing, which involves actual humans writing text and citing their credible sources, doesn’t that mean it’s reliable in terms of telling us when we have given up on our pursuit of the truth? I think this is especially relevant in today’s “post-truth” world.
I think it’s a good possibility that Wikipedia is a good indicator of our society’s willingness to believe and trust our fellow human, cited and credible sources, and the truth (in the largest and smallest sense of the word).
So, if there ever comes a day when Wikipedia falls/becomes useless/is manipulated by dictatorships and used as propaganda, then we know we are really in trouble. As if we weren’t before. When Wikipedia goes, expect the zombie apocalypse to really kick in.*
* I am being dramatic. Do not take this particular sentence seriously.