Pip Wilson | 07.09.2004 04:14 | Education
Wikipedia began in a conversation between two old Internet friends, Larry Sanger, editor-in-chief of Nupedia, and Ben Kovitz, a computer programmer, on January 2, 2001. The idea was to have an encyclopaedia that was not only free to users, but which could actually be created by the general community. It might even be said that it is a very good example of anarchism at work.
When I first found Wikipedia there weren't a lot of articles but it has grown fantastically so that today there are more than 340,000 articles. It is a true Internet success story and a credit to the vision of its founders.
Planting memes and pulling up weeds at Wikipedia:
Wikipedia affords a great opportunity for people with progressive ideas and a commitment to justice, peace and our natural environment to influence ideas. Anyone may initiate and edit articles, or add input to the 'Discussion' section at the head of each and every Wikipedia article. Ideas that you plant, and the rooting out of falsehoods and reactionary ideas, can influence the course of events and people's thinking in many ways.
Here are a few suggestions, just off the top of my head:
Start articles on people who have made a difference, such as activists and writers. There are already articles on movie celebrities and sports people, so let's up the ante with more inspiring people like R Buckminster Fuller, EF Schumacher, Petra Kelly, Jane Addams and Mahatma Gandhi. Together we can change the concept of celebrity;
Add useful internal and external links to existing articles. It's easy to learn how to make amendments and additions to any Wikipedia article, and most of the time no one will amend your amendments. It will happen sometimes, but you are allowed to debate it, and anyway, it won't be possible for cranky people to oppose everything you do, and you can invite some friends to join the debate -- that's what democracy is all about;
Help give Wikipedia more global awareness and responsibility. If an article says something like "In 1972 the first movie about artichokes was screened", and you know that in your country there was one earlier, add the words "in the USA" ... this is necessary because Wikipedia is very Americocentric despite a policy in favour of internationalism. If an article says "Vice-President Schlemburger", it might be appropriate to add "of the USA". The authors often assume there is only one country -- we all know that there will be no peace until globalism (rather than globalization) spreads;
You can bring some brain-food to articles that reveal the author's lack of thinking about what's important. For example, an article like 'F/A-22 Raptor' really needs a section that is critical of expensive death machines, and discussion about what this machinery does, i.e., kills men, women and children. There are obviously a lot of fairly unconscious people posting stuff without a view to the bigger picture, so take your monkeywrench to any article and fix it. There might be specific information you can bring to an article from your own reading, or you can search for info elsewhere. Most things have a political context and if no one points it out, Wikipedia users will be the poorer for it. Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes;
The beauty of this is that it won't cost you a penny and you might influence thousands of people over the years. Think of all the schoolteachers and schoolkids who might get a much-needed alternative view because you took the time to assert good values where none previously existed. True, someone might edit your editing, but it's very democratic and even slightly progressive at Wikipedia, and you won't find yourself alone.
At Wikipedia you will also find links to Wikisource (where you can post source documents), Wikiquote (your choice of quotations to upload -- and the authors of those quotes -- can be influential in themselves), and Wikibooks.
If you think it is a good idea for progressive people to influence the world's knowledge bank in this free and easy way, I invite you to pass this on to as many people as you can.
Have fun being a Wikiactivist!
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