As Michael Fischer observed elsewhere on the OAC, Wikipedia coverage for anthropology is dismal in comparison to other disciplines due to lack of participation by anthropologists. As Rex noted at Savage Minds some time ago, the same holds true for Citizendium. Any ideas as to why this might be the case?

Citizendium even has a program, Eduzendium, where they partner with university programs to create high-quality entries by allowing students, under teacher supervision, to write public entries about key terms pertaining to their discipline. This would be a great project for undergraduate anthropology courses.

Tags: citizendium, wikipedia

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I experimented by writing and editing Wikipedia articles but stopped after I'd done a handful. I wasn't very interested in writing general anthro articles because of the time it would take (time taken away from other writing) and because I didn't see much point in writing on topics that are already well covered in the published literature. And although I could have written a multitude of articles about specific ethnographic (regional, historical, linguistic etc.) topics, I found that there were a number of obstacles/discouragements, including (1) the imperative that articles shouldn't include original research, and (2) the fact that editing/cleaning up existing articles can be a thankless task, and very difficult when someone (often their creator) feels that they 'own' the content (the flip side of this is that you also try to protect your own content and get into fruitless struggles with others who want to change it, not to mention everyday vandals). Aside from obvious general topics there are a vast number of things that anthropologists could write about, but the incentives to do so are minimal and the space in which to do them is constrained.
Ive been doing exams so have been absent for awhile. Jacob Lee commented that "Excuse me, as I am new to the OAC and do not know if it is out of place for me to speak. I think we've a responsibility to make Wikipedia as complete an encyclopedia as possible", above. I am not so sure we have a, or should have a responsibility to do this at all. There is a significant but minority lobby of "free net advocates" who are often highly educated, well placed financially and often come from the large industrial centres. They seem to always want to repeat the colonial experience of imposing obligations and duties on the world's population vis-a-vis whatever is produced in the first world - think WTO, war in Afhganistan and so on.

From this perspective, advocating wikis and so on are just appropriations of labour - free labour. I don't know about you guys but I live in a material world with costs and I have a job so I can pay off my house and feed my children. I want Governments to free up the web so that companies can sell services, employ people and so on. I second Rupert Murdoch's claim that Wikis and googles, even Ning etc are the free loaders of today, existing in loopholes and costing the rest of us big time. The open source movement is so detrimental to the development of web based economies that I fear we are costing the world - especially the poor and marginalized for decades to come. I argue that we should close the commons - and countries like Sweden and Denmark who have the most slack approach to regulation of the web should be made to pay compensation.
Martin Walsh said:
I experimented by writing and editing Wikipedia articles but stopped after I'd done a handful. [...] I didn't see much point in writing on topics that are already well covered in the published literature. [...] I found that there were a number of obstacles/discouragements, including (1) the imperative that articles shouldn't include original research, and (2) the fact that editing/cleaning up existing articles can be a thankless task, and very difficult when someone (often their creator) feels that they 'own' the content (the flip side of this is that you also try to protect your own content and get into fruitless struggles with others who want to change it, not to mention everyday vandals). Aside from obvious general topics there are a vast number of things that anthropologists could write about, but the incentives to do so are minimal and the space in which to do them is constrained.
I would say the situation at Citizendium is sufficiently different from that at any of the Wikipedias that it is worth another try. As for your points:
(0) Much of the published literature is not accessible to those that would search for general information about anthropology - e.g. students, journalists or the wider public - and often not even to anthropologists.
(1) As Joe mentioned, Citizendium is currently writing a charter, and options to provide more room for original research and for the integration with expert workflows are being discussed (everyone has to keep up with the literature anyway. Already today, however, original research can in principle be posted on an article's talk page, and if an Editor (i.e. someone with real-world credentials in the respective field) deems it appropriate for the article, it may well go in. Otherwise, articles like Recession of 2009 or orthogonality proofs of the Associated Legendre functions would not be possible.
(2) Generally, there is much less cleaning up to be done, since there is next to no vandalism, emphasis is put on writing a coherent narrative from the start, and approved articles are locked for editing (which continues at the draft page). Also, templates and categories are used in much healthier doses than at the Wikipedias.
(3) It's true that the incentives are low, but some of the typical workflow of researchers - collecting information like references or web resources on the topic at hand, or on related topics - can be done in such an environment which takes care of backups and whose encyclopaedic structure makes it generally easy to find things when you look for them. Crucially, most journals do consider manuscripts for publication that are based on wiki entries, just as they do consider manuscripts based on conference contributions.


Beck J said:
Jacob Lee commented that "I think we've a responsibility to make Wikipedia as complete an encyclopedia as possible", above. I am not so sure we have a, or should have a responsibility to do this at all.

I agree with you in that generally no responsibility beyond the duties at work, in the family and as a citizen should be taken for granted, even though I do think that researchers have a responsibility to inform their students, the media and the public about matters related to their research, and usually at the more general level that these audiences can absorb and which form the core of an encyclopedic project.

Beck J said:
The open source movement is so detrimental to the development of web based economies that I fear we are costing the world - especially the poor and marginalized for decades to come. I argue that we should close the commons - and countries like Sweden and Denmark who have the most slack approach to regulation of the web should be made to pay compensation.

I vehemently disagree with you on this. While we do indeed cost the world for decades to come, this is the result of economic structures developed long before open source or the web became popular. Yes, they have changed the way people interact with each other, and for some industries that cannot cope with that - e.g. many newspapers - it is indeed a challenge to find a long-term niche in this evolving economic landscape. But to what extend is this different from the challenges introduced to the crafts of book copying when Gutenberg started to print letter types? Would you want to ban places like Strassburg and Leipzig retrospectively because they were early harbours for the printing industry?


NIKOS GOUSGOUNIS said:
Very good this idea of Citizendium as a more sophisticated Wikipedia but speaking about anthropological articles but I wanted to ask who wrote this article about ANTHROPOLOGY ? It's very good even with some luttle errors ( Herodotus never compared any barbaric customs with athenian ones , because he lived not in Athens)

The article history shows that most of the content was already there in revision 2, so the originator is a molecular biologist.

As for Herodotus living in Athens, I do not know the latest research but I have certainly seen him being mentioned to have been in Athens on occasion, so that he could have compared Athenian with barbarian customs. In some places (no idea about their credibility), it is even stated that he lived there for a while.

So what would be a better phrasing?
Martin Walsh said:
I experimented by writing and editing Wikipedia articles but stopped after I'd done a handful. I wasn't very interested in writing general anthro articles because of the time it would take (time taken away from other writing) and because I didn't see much point in writing on topics that are already well covered in the published literature. And although I could have written a multitude of articles about specific ethnographic (regional, historical, linguistic etc.) topics, I found that there were a number of obstacles/discouragements, including (1) the imperative that articles shouldn't include original research, and (2) the fact that editing/cleaning up existing articles can be a thankless task, and very difficult when someone (often their creator) feels that they 'own' the content (the flip side of this is that you also try to protect your own content and get into fruitless struggles with others who want to change it, not to mention everyday vandals). Aside from obvious general topics there are a vast number of things that anthropologists could write about, but the incentives to do so are minimal and the space in which to do them is constrained.

You're absolutely right about all of this. I think about it from a different perspective, however. The benefits of writing for a wiki like Citizendium are a little different than the benefits of writing other kinds of material.

The point of publishing a journal article or a book is to advance the field in some way, even if it is only a very minor advance. Even for students writing term papers, it is important to take a position, develop a thesis, make a persuasive argument. The purpose of writing for a wiki like Citizendium, on the other hand, is simply to explain a subject, hopefully clearly and completely and without skewing the presentation too much in one direction or another.

In order to make a strong argument in a journal article/book/term paper, one must first understand opposing perspectives and the intricacies that will either make or break the argument. Now, for seasoned professionals and advanced students, the assumption is that such understanding has already been achieved. We cannot assume this level of insight for beginners and should probably not assume it for as many of the advanced practitioners in any given discipline as we do. I personally try not to assume that I ever really know anything until I can explain it clearly to someone else. Thus, I see writing for Citizendium as a way to make sure I know what I'm talking about before I try to make an argument about my topic in some other venue. I think others can gain the same benefit.

Daniel Mietchen said:
The article history shows that most of the content was already there in revision 2, so the originator is a molecular biologist.

Actually, the article is a little older than the article history shows. The earliest edits do not show up in the history for some reason. I put together the outline and wrote the preliminary text with a community college teacher from Florida named Stephen Ewen (who is now working on a Ph.D. in anthro, I think) in February and March of 2007. That's really neither here nor there, but I'd be really interested in working on finishing it with anyone who is interested. It's a very intimidating project to undertake solo.
Thanks Daniel for your response. My perspective on the matter of the Internet is that it has been made a fetish by the "anthropology on the wane collective". By contrast I don't think anthropology is on the wane and nor do I think that parallels can be drawn between the Gutenberg Press and the Internet. Also into the equation, you have to figure that capitalism as historically situated set of practices - for sure, with roots going way back, is also a phenomenon that is very much in its infancy. Free net advocates are a select privileged group emanating from bases in European and North American centers who were largely early adopters of capitalist systems. The big corporations and most business really absolutely love it that you can get all these services for free - especially free software development and so on. This is why I am so critical of some of the ethnography done on the free software movement - it ignores the relationship to capitalism, whereby a whole realm of activity is "closed off" from those of us who want to make money on it. This what I mean by it affecting us for a long time to come. Thankfully changes are afoot - but coming from the most unlikely - or perhaps likely of sources - depending on your perspective, in the form of Rupert Murdoch. The "free" movement is an ideological appropriation of our labour and should be resisted. Look at the success of Australia to see how the new economies will emerge in 21 century.
Oh btw, the more you co-operate with wiki groups and educendium for instance, the more "I believe" that you will contribute to the ability of Universities and research institutes to outsource teaching and tuting. In Australia this is already happening where administrators - often with more authority than academics, are providing more course material via open and centralised Internet reliant archives. This will intensifiy as organisations like Educendium grow and as they get a level of respectability - especially, through a partial closing off of the commons. This is often touted as a move for the better in terms of efficiency - which it is, however some subjects - and I think anthropology is one for obvious reasons, relies on that human face-to-face contact and some censuring of material.
Kerim has passed on a link to the Online Dictionary (wiki) of Keywords in Anthropology produced by the Society for East Asian Anthropology. Just dipping in there gives some idea of the size of the job.
Beck J said:
The big corporations and most business really absolutely love it that you can get all these services for free - especially free software development and so on. This is why I am so critical of some of the ethnography done on the free software movement - it ignores the relationship to capitalism, whereby a whole realm of activity is "closed off" from those of us who want to make money on it. This what I mean by it affecting us for a long time to come. Thankfully changes are afoot - but coming from the most unlikely - or perhaps likely of sources - depending on your perspective, in the form of Rupert Murdoch. The "free" movement is an ideological appropriation of our labour and should be resisted. Look at the success of Australia to see how the new economies will emerge in 21 century.
Just for perspective: the position of Science Commons on the matter of rendering science open is described nicely in this blog post.
Daniel, the blog you linked to is the Linux one and I suppose they are are going to spin that line no matter what anyone says. But there are other statistics out there - such as the increase in pay per view journals and the growth in specialist journals - of which, not many are going wiki. Keith you mention Kerim's sending of the Harvard based Chinese translation site but this is precisely what is wrong with wikis. It is sort of owned by what ever association which purports to be something of an authority on East Asia or South East Asia - they seem quite confused about which is which and they call for anyone to update or check with administrators = fine, but they are appropriating labour and calling open access. Those members of that association all have jobs so they don't need to worry. My advice to you Keith is to stick to social networking which you are good at and get off this "getting everything for free bandwagon" - its not fair that someone like you with contacts and his career behind him seeks to manipulate people into giving away their labour for nothing.
So old Karl Marx shouldn't have spent all his free time sweating over books in the British Library because, when it comes down to it, he was having his surplus value extracted by a bunch of 'Marxists' (many of them with salaries to boot)?
Hi Huon

These are two entirely different things - nothing to do with Marx supposedly pouring over texts in a library. Daniel comes at this discussion with quite an extensive background in the open source wiki movement and Keith hart comes at this "critical" of anthropologists generally - for example his latest posting on the ASA where he states anthropologists don't know money or whatever. Point is I come from this as an undergrad who has to live in the real world, where people go out and get jobs. My point is that wikis are an appropriation of labour without payment and ultimately they all fail. However I wonder as to the motivations of those who advocate them. Ecommerce is growing across the net and I would like to see it grow but I fear things like wikis will slow and unnecessarily disrupt the process of privatizing the Net - which must happen if it is going to really benefit people - thats Marx - value added! I reckon he'd be on my side in this one.
Well, that sounds a bit like Brazilian/Peruvian economists a decade ago - if you can get a title to your 'bit' of land then this will boost the economy because little people will have an interest in trucking land for other goods and so on. But you need a very big government to establish title to very small bits and bobs and guarantee the exchanges; and who is going to take that governmental role in this case?

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