Wikipedia oral citations
August 24, 2011 9:32 PM   Subscribe

As Wikipedia expanded to lesser known languages it ran into a problem: What is knowledge for Wikipedia purposes? Traditionally knowledge has been defined by citations, but many languages don't have a lot of written material, greatly limiting what could be created on Wikipedia. The solution (NYT) may be that People are Knowledge (45min), a project funded by a Wikimedia Foundation grant.
posted by stbalbach (9 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Absolutely fascinating.

This particular problem also crops up prominently in international patent regimes, particularly those over seeds. Because of the way international patent law is structured, the ability to document established medical or other uses for a crop is preferred over a traditional knowledge base held by a tribe or people, regardless if the traditional knowledge predated the work of a western drug company by several hundred (thousand sometimes) years. The Indian neem tree is a classical example in the literature.

There's lots of innovative clever solutions cropping up to deal with this particular problem, including trusts and other structures which attempt to document traditional knowledge in such a way that tribes can retain IPR and channel the payments into something they can use - infrastructure - instead of into cash, which lots of societies plain don't have use for. One optimistically wonders if Wikipedia can inadvertently serve as another form of traditional knowledge documentation.
posted by Apropos of Something at 9:40 PM on August 24, 2011

Oh man, when I was doing my masters I was looking into information sharing and the stuff on indigenous knowledge is just fascinating. One things that I really like about the recent developments on the Internet is it seems like we're starting to mirror some of these indigenous knowledge patterns (albeit in written rather than oral form). Even something as basic as a set of Yelp reviews is constructing a new kind of knowledge about local areas.

Even in a place that is relatively developed, like Cairo, the local knowledge is going to be far beyond whatever is available in written form. There are entire populations and neighborhoods in Cairo that have probably never been subject to written scrutiny. I actually think that often Wikipedia's weakest articles are the geographical ones when based around areas that have received limited written attention. Having well-researched articles on small villages and neighborhoods based around local knowledge would be pretty cool.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:54 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

People are Knowledge on Vimeo in case .ogv doesn't work
posted by stbalbach at 10:00 PM on August 24, 2011

The Human Hand has five fingers. [citation needed]
posted by charlie don't surf at 10:11 PM on August 24, 2011

Interesting. One of the most annoying things about wikipedia is the wikilawyers who insist on following rules, deleting everything without a citation and so on. Next wikipedia needs to get rid of the deletionists.
posted by delmoi at 11:45 PM on August 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

From the video's discription on Wikipedia:
Date: 	22 July 2011

Source: 	    This file is lacking source information.
            Please edit this file's description and provide a source.

Author: Achal Prabhala, Priya Sen, Zen Marie
But, yeah, more seriously, one of Wikipedia's strengths is that there are a gazillion Wikipedias and they don't all do things the same way. It one of them tries something different and it works, the others can emulate it. What these guys are doing is pretty interesting.
posted by nangar at 12:04 AM on August 25, 2011

On English Wikipedia it's fine to cite your own original research provided that it's hosted somewhere that's not Wikipedia. I don't understand the problem.
posted by LogicalDash at 3:36 AM on August 25, 2011

On English Wikipedia it's fine to cite your own original research provided that it's hosted somewhere that's not Wikipedia.

posted by goethean at 7:36 AM on August 25, 2011

On English Wikipedia it's fine to cite your own original research provided that it's hosted somewhere that's not Wikipedia.


More exactly, it's fine to cite your own original research so long as it is published in reputable sources. I would guess that a scientist who was an expert in a very specific gene, and who had published authoritative articles on that gene, could and should edit the corresponding article in WP and cite those articles which have been published in a scholarly work. It is not permissible to cite something which has been self-published.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:05 AM on September 1, 2011

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