Submissions/Wikipedia, Ethos, and the Production of Knowledge

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.


Title of the submission

Wikipedia, Ethos, and the Production of Knowledge

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)


Author of the submission

Trent M Kays

E-mail address



Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)

Department of Writing Studies, University of Minnesota

Personal homepage or blog

Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

Academics generally do not approve of Wikipedia being used for scholarly purposes. Many academics view Wikipedia as more of a fun and quick source of information while dismissing it as a reliable source of knowledge. Fundamentally, for academics, a lack of ethos or authority (Aristotle) encourages such dismissals of reliability; however, through the act of dismissal, many academics are supporting the propagation of privileged class systems and productions of knowledge. This position is antithetical to what a university should represent.

The academy engages in production of knowledge, and it is often the same production of knowledge through which Wikipedia is populated with information. So, what makes the academy’s mode of production better or more reliable than Wikipedia’s? The main function of knowledge discovery in the academy is supported by the ethos of the institution through which it was discovered; however, when knowledge is discovered through Wikipedia, the normalized and “approved” mode of production is bypassed causing irritation among privileged academics.

Yet, academics, in their zeal to disparage Wikipedia’s contribution to collective and open knowledge, fail to recognize the context (Derrida) of Wikipedia’s use and through which Wikipedian knowledge is discovered. Wikipedia filled a void calling for free and open knowledge, and more importantly, it provided a clear example of the social construction and crowdsourcing of knowledge (Bruffee) and how said knowledge can be accessed by those outside of the academy. Despite the position of many academics, the academy does not and should not have the sole domain of what constitutes knowledge (Latour).

In this presentation, I will discuss the problem of ethos in Wikipedia, how Wikipedia has shattered the traditional modes of production of knowledge, why Wikipedia should be used and treated as an academic source when the context is appropriate, and where Wikipedia can fit into university curriculum and contemporary research. Moreover, I will outline the issues and myths of objectivity in relation to Wikipedia and “traditional” modes of production, why academics opposition toward Wikipedia can be attributed to classism, and how Wikipedia and wikis can be used to support knowledge for the public good. Ending, I will highlight why the problem of reliability has nothing to do with Wikipedia as a repository of knowledge, but the question of reliability is symptomatic of a failing higher education curriculum that hasn’t kept up with digital innovation, technologies, or tools and how to implement digital and new media literacies (Kress) both in and outside the classroom.

  • WikiCulture and Community; Research, Analysis, and Education
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?


Slides or further information (optional)


Special request as to time of presentations

Unfortunately, I cannot present on Thursday or Friday morning. I teach Thursday nights, and I will most likely travel to the conference on Friday morning.

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  1. Excellent framing of the topic. Sj (talk) 00:53, 20 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Valid entry (talk) 02:22, 22 March 2012 (UTC) if it doesn't collide with my presentation time[reply]
  3. Shunlingchen (talk) 18:20, 22 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  4. As a university student who has been criticized for using Wikipedia as a starting point in research, and would be shot if he cited an article. CT Cooper · talk 20:15, 22 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Dmitri Lytov (talk) 21:05, 6 June 2012 (UTC) - it must be a very interesting presentation; however, it seems to thematically overlap with Workshop I the same day at 10:30.[reply]
  6. NaBUru38 (talk) 18:15, 7 June 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Emw (talk) 20:26, 16 June 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Your name here!