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Wikipedia U

Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age

Thomas Leitch

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Explores the battle between the top-down authority traditionally ascribed to experts and scholars and the bottom-up authority exemplified by Wikipedia.

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has been a lightning rod for debates about knowledge and traditional authority. It has come under particular scrutiny from publishers of print encyclopedias and college professors, who are skeptical about whether a crowd-sourced encyclopedia—in which most entries are subject to potentially endless reviewing and editing by anonymous collaborators whose credentials cannot be established—can ever truly be…

Explores the battle between the top-down authority traditionally ascribed to experts and scholars and the bottom-up authority exemplified by Wikipedia.

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has been a lightning rod for debates about knowledge and traditional authority. It has come under particular scrutiny from publishers of print encyclopedias and college professors, who are skeptical about whether a crowd-sourced encyclopedia—in which most entries are subject to potentially endless reviewing and editing by anonymous collaborators whose credentials cannot be established—can ever truly be accurate or authoritative.

In Wikipedia U, Thomas Leitch argues that the assumptions these critics make about accuracy and authority are themselves open to debate. After all, academics are expected both to consult the latest research and to return to the earliest sources in their field, each of which has its own authority. And when teachers encourage students to master information so that they can question it independently, their ultimate goal is to create a new generation of thinkers and makers whose authority will ultimately supplant their own.

Wikipedia U offers vital new lessons about the nature of authority and the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0. Leitch regards Wikipedia as an ideal instrument for probing the central assumptions behind liberal education, making it more than merely, as one of its severest critics has charged, "the encyclopedia game, played online."

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Wikipedia U

Thomas Leitch

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Reviews

Reviews

In this thoughtful and thorough analysis, the author demonstrates how technology has complicated and enriched learning. This work is ideal for teachers, students, librarians, and would-be Wikipedia contributors.

This book is an excellent treatise on the controversy over authority and experience. Scholarly, written for an academic or more specialized audience, it is still accessible to the general reader, and well worth the effort... This important book is an essential discussion about how knowledge is disseminated and when it should be believed.

In this deceptively slender volume, Leitch gathers a fascinating set of narratives around the nature of authority in the academic world... engaging and controversial... a critical (in several senses) debate about the very nature of authority and how it can, and must, evolve and be refined as both society and technology change around us.

Leitch's innovation is to spin the table in both directions: He uses the values of higher education to expose the contradictions of Wikipedia, but he just as deftly employs Wikipedia's ethos to expose the paradoxes of liberal education's own claims to authority.

This book considers the nature of knowledge, its authority, and its new challenges in the age of the internet, and considers its role behind liberal education processes as a whole. The result is a fine study that should be in any college-level collection.

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About

Book Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Battle of the Books
1. Origin Stories
2. Paradoxes of Authority
3. The Case against Wikipedia
4. Playing the Encylopedia Game
5. Tommor and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Appendix

Acknowledgments
Introduction: The Battle of the Books
1. Origin Stories
2. Paradoxes of Authority
3. The Case against Wikipedia
4. Playing the Encylopedia Game
5. Tommor and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Appendix: Exercises for Exploring Wikipedia and Authority
Notes
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Thomas Leitch

Thomas Leitch is a professor of English at the University of Delaware.
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