What the Wikipedia Blackout Taught Me

Image via Gawker.com

As everyone who has ever used a computer knows, Wikipedia went black last week to protest SOPA. While this may have put a slight snag in my random “research projects” (all in the name of a personal quest for knowledge*), it didn’t really rock my world. I’ve been searching the Internets and Google-ing for years; a Wikipedia blackout is a minor speed bump on the road to Internet-induced self-improvement. In other words: If I have a question about some obscure piece of pop culture, I will go to the ends of the Internet to find the answer, Wikipedia or no Wikipedia.

That’s why it was a bit troubling to find out that high school kids and their teachers were all up in arms over their inability to get onto Wikipedia last week. First of all, if you’re really that much of a lazy shut-in who has to do all of your research on a computer, there are other ways to search for information using the Internet. Secondly, every heard of the library? They have these things called encyclopedias. Encyclopedias are big books that were used in olden times (read: the late 1990s) the way Wikipedia is used today. The only catch is you can rest assured that all of the information in an encyclopedia is factual—and not the result of a comedian encouraging a few thousand fans to flood an entry with false information to pull a quick one on the easily gullible Wikipedia-reading public. Imagine that! A reference item that is scrupulously edited and not subject to the whims of thousands of unbalanced weirdos (myself included) clicking away on a keyboard.

While Wikipedia is an invaluable resource to my daily life (where else would I go to find out what movies Kim Richards starred in to make her a child star?), I have enough perspective to know its limitations. I certainly wouldn’t be using it to write papers in school—and if I were a teacher, I certainly wouldn’t be using it to plan my lessons. But hey, maybe I’m old school. I did, after all, use microfilm to research papers in college. How very 2003 of me.

*Recent Wikipedia searches include: “OK vs. okay,” “Jerusalem artichoke” and “Macaulay Culkin.” Clearly, I am learning.

Posted by Amelia

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