Inside Oxford: Questions for Niko Pfund
2. Do you hate Wikipedia?”
Not at all, I’m actually very fond of Wikipedia, which is not only useful to me on a daily basis but one of the most interesting exercises in information-gathering we’ve yet seen. While there are obvious and stark differences between the goals and utility of Wikipedia and traditional reference works—say, the Oxford English Dictionary—we are rapidly moving toward an online environment defined by “multiple levels of authority” (in the words of our online/reference publisher, Casper Grathwohl), in which people know to go to different sites for different kinds of information. As the population becomes increasingly technology-literate and information-literate, as search becomes increasingly sophisticated, and as Wikipedia’s growing influence brings additional challenges (with prominence come expectations…), the one-stop shopping model will likely fragment, as people will know where to go for the best and most appropriate information, or will be led there automatically.
Whenever we talk about citation formats (APA,MLA) I always tell my students that the conventions of print are relatively new and the the emerging conventions of the web, including collective authorship, undated material and the like, are much older. Pfund makes a similar point, contending that Wikipedia is simply returning to a type of authorship that created, among many other things, the Oxford English Dictionary. Imagine, the rabble wrote the OED!