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Wikipedia U

, 176 pages
September 2014



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Wikipedia U

Knowledge, Authority, and Liberal Education in the Digital Age

Other books in the series

Since its launch in 2001, Wikipedia has been a lightning rod for debates about knowledge and traditional authority. It has come under particular scrutiny from publishers of print encyclopedias and college professors, who are skeptical about whether a crowd-sourced encyclopedia—in which most entries are subject to potentially endless reviewing and editing by anonymous collaborators whose credentials cannot be established—can ever truly be accurate or authoritative.

In Wikipedia U, Thomas Leitch argues that the assumptions these critics make about accuracy and authority are themselves open to debate. After all, academics are expected both to consult the latest research and to return to the earliest sources in their field, each of which has its own authority. And when teachers encourage students to master information so that they can question it independently, their ultimate goal is to create a new generation of thinkers and makers whose authority will ultimately supplant their own.

Wikipedia U offers vital new lessons about the nature of authority and the opportunities and challenges of Web 2.0. Leitch regards Wikipedia as an ideal instrument for probing the central assumptions behind liberal education, making it more than merely, as one of its severest critics has charged, "the encyclopedia game, played online."

Thomas Leitch is a professor of English and the director of the film studies program at the University of Delaware. He is the author of Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From "Gone with the Wind" to "The Passion of the Christ," also published by Johns Hopkins, and the coeditor of A Companion to Alfred Hitchcock.

"A novel contribution; Wikipedia U is unlike any other book on the topic. It will be of great use to those interested in the intersections between today's Wikipedia and the venerable project of a liberal education."

"In this thoughtful and thorough analysis, the author demonstrates how technology has complicated and enriched learning. This work is ideal for teachers, students, librarians, and would-be Wikipedia contributors."

"This book is an excellent treatise on the controversy over authority and experience. Scholarly, written for an academic or more specialized audience, it is still accessible to the general reader, and well worth the effort... This important book is an essential discussion about how knowledge is disseminated and when it should be believed."

"In this deceptively slender volume, Leitch gathers a fascinating set of narratives around the nature of authority in the academic world... engaging and controversial... a critical (in several senses) debate about the very nature of authority and how it can, and must, evolve and be refined as both society and technology change around us."

"Leitch's innovation is to spin the table in both directions: He uses the values of higher education to expose the contradictions of Wikipedia, but he just as deftly employs Wikipedia's ethos to expose the paradoxes of liberal education's own claims to authority."

"This book considers the nature of knowledge, its authority, and its new challenges in the age of the internet, and considers its role behind liberal education processes as a whole. The result is a fine study that should be in any college-level collection."

"This book offers an engagine discussion of important questions of authority."

"Wikipedia U is a useful handbook for teachers hoping to help students navigate information in our digital age."

"Leitch digs into this apparently straightforward contradiction to uncover any number of complications—he calls them paradoxes—of authority on both the online and liberal-education sides."

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