Wikipedia, knowledge and identity

Something to think big on. I saw another blog entry yesterday – I haven’t checked it’s validity, but it did give links that seemed to indicate it’s real – talking about how someone (Essjay) who claimed to be an established academic and who wrote over 800 pages of Wikipedia was, in fact, a 24 year old student. He is now removing all his content from Wikipedia.What I would ask is, was his content authentic and useful? If the content was authentic and useful, does it matter who he is? Of course, one ‘shouldn’t’ pretend to be someone one is not, but to what extent does this matter if the outcome is the same? If, however, what he wrote was a lot of rubbish, and he used false credentials to do this, that would be a different matter. But that is what we internet readers have to try to do – assess the content, regardless. People can have wonderful credentials, and still write rubbish. It makes me think about art fraud too. If no-one can tell the difference, what is the difference? I wonder why Essjay felt the need to pretend to be someone else. I can imagine, as a fiction writer, that perhaps it started as a small thing, a joke almost, an identity to go with one small article. And then it grew, as he discovered how he liked the writing, and the identity…But I still think that if the content is valid, it may as well stay there, why take it away? Just change the identity of the writer.

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2 Comments

Filed under Current issues, Philosophy

2 responses to “Wikipedia, knowledge and identity

  1. I wonder why many people who lie let their lie linger on so long. Perhaps it is that we get caught up in our lies all too easily.

  2. I think once we have created a story, we go on living it. Also, that part of what offends readers is the idea that they have been in some way duped…but have they really? We can all only go on what appears to be.

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