The Impact of Wikipedia by Adrianne Wadewitz

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Adrianne Wadewitz

So one semester, I had a student who was writing a report on the novel Frankenstein, and I have contributed to the article on Mary Shelley, and to the article on Frankenstein. And whole swaths of the paper were plagiarized from the article I wrote on Mary Shelley.

So, I got to write in the margin, I know this is plagiarized from Wikipedia, [whispers] because I wrote it on Wikipedia.

My name is Adrianne Wadewitz.

When I was a little kid, like seven or eight years old, I started reading big, long Nineteenth Century novels, and I fell in love with them.

I wrote my dissertation on eighteenth-century British children's literature and I wanted to share what I had the opportunity to learn about, with the world.

When someone goes to see a film like Becoming Jane, which is a film about Jane Austen, you know -- I want to know more about Jane Austen, and then they type it in to Google, and they get the Wikipedia article, that they actually know what really happened to Jane Austen's life versus this fictionalization that happened in the film, because that film was a total fiction.

One reason that I try to recruit professors to have them have students write actual articles in the classroom is we want to show students how to use Wikipedia productively, so one of the things I did was develop a Wikipedia writing assignment so that you weren't writing your essays for me, the professor and I was the only person who was going to see them. The world was going to see what you wrote and it mattered what you wrote and how you wrote it, because millions of people were going to see what you wrote.

So, whenever I have students put together an article or add material to an article, I have them think about what does it mean to construct an article out of a variety of sources and what kinds of sources are being used, and what does that mean for our understanding of that topic? How is knowledge being constructed in this particular area?

I've come across very informed amateurs on Wikipedia; that is what is so great, that people who are hobbyists who love a particular topic, and then they start adding information, and that is what makes Wikipedia so great; it brings together both professionals and amateurs who have a love for a particular topic.

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