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.

Inside Oxford: Questions for Niko Pfund

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!

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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