Wiki-Philosophizing in a Marketplace of Ideas: Evaluating Wikipedia's Entries on Seven Great Minds
University of Guelph-Humber
A very conspicuous part of the new participatory media, Wikipedia has emerged as the Internet's leading source of all-purpose information, the volume and range of its articles far surpassing that of its traditional rival, the Encyclopedia Britannica. This has been accomplished by permitting virtually anyone to contribute, either by writing an original article or editing an existing one. With almost no entry barriers to the production of information, the result is that Wikipedia exhibits a perfectly competitive marketplace of ideas. It has often been argued that such a marketplace is the best guarantee that quality information will be generated and disseminated.
We test this contention by examining Wikipedia's entries on seven top Western philosophers. These entries are evaluated against the consensus view elicited from four academic reference works in philosophy. Wikipedia's performance turns out to be decidedly mixed. Its average coverage rate of consensus topics is 52%, while the median rate is 56%. A qualitative analysis uncovered no outright errors, though there were significant omissions. The online encyclopedia's harnessing of the marketplace of ideas, though not unimpressive, fails to emerge as clearly superior to the traditional alternative of relying on individual expertise for information.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 54
Keywords: Wikipedia, Information, Information Market, Encyclopedia, Media, New Media, Participatory Media, Philosophy, Marketplace of Ideas
JEL Classification: D41, D8, D80, D83, D89, L82, L86, Z1, Z10
Date posted: April 3, 2007