Sure - offline or non-english refs are accepted AGF!

Date: Tue, 9 Aug 2011 07:31:47 +0530
Subject: Re: [Wikimediaindia-l] [Press] : New York Times : "When Knowledge 
Isn’t Written, Does It Still Count?"

Nice article ... :)

Hi Tinu,

One doubt in referencing; can we keep text indic languages as reference in 
English wikipedia ?

                Naveen Francis
                                Signature powered by 
        On 8 August 2011 23:13, CherianTinu Abraham <> 

NewYork Times : "When Knowledge Isn’t Written, Does It Still Count?"

“MAKING fun of Wikipedia is so 2007,” a French journalist said recently to Sue 
Gardner, the executive director of the foundation that runs the Wikipedia 

And so Ms. Gardner, in turn, told an auditorium full of Wikipedia contributors 
and supporters on Thursday in Haifa, Israel, the host city for the seventh 
annual Wikimania conference, where meetings and presentations focus on the 
world’s most used, and perhaps least understood, online reference work.

Once routinely questioned about its reliability — what do you mean, anyone can 
edit it? — the site is now used every month by upwards of 400 million people 
worldwide. But with influence and respect come responsibility, and lately 
Wikipedia has been criticized from without and within for reflecting a Western, 
male-dominated mindset similar to the perspective behind the encyclopedias it 
has replaced.

Seeing Wikipedia as The Man, in so many words, is so 2011.
And that’s a problem for an encyclopedia that wants to grow. Some critics of 
Wikipedia believe that the whole Western tradition of footnotes and sourced 
articles needs to be rethought if Wikipedia is going to continue to gather 
converts beyond its current borders. And that, in turn, invites an entirely new 
debate about what constitutes knowledge in different parts of the world and how 
a Western institution like Wikipedia can capitalize on it.

Achal Prabhala, an adviser to Ms. Gardner’s Wikimedia Foundation who lives and 
writes in Bangalore, India, has made perhaps the most trenchant criticism in a 
video project, “People are Knowledge,” that he presented in Haifa (along with 
its clunky subtitle, “Exploring alternative methods of citation for Wikipedia”).

The film, which was made largely with a $20,000 grant from the Wikimedia 
Foundation, spends time showing what has been lost to Wikipedia because of 
stickling rules of citation and verification. If Wikipedia purports to collect 
the “sum of all human knowledge,” in the words of one of its founders, Jimmy 
Wales, that, by definition, means more than printed knowledge, Mr. Prabhala 

In the case of dabba kali, a children’s game played in the Kerala state of 
India, there was a Wikipedia article in the local language, Malayalam, that 
included photos, a drawing and a detailed description of the rules, but no 
sources to back up what was written. Other than, of course, the 40 million 
people who played it as children.

There is no doubt, he said, that the article would have been deleted from 
English Wikipedia if it didn’t have any sources to cite. Those are the rules of 
the game, and those are the rules he would like to change, or at least bend, 
or, if all else fails, work around.

“There is this desire to grow Wikipedia in parts of the world,” he said, adding 
that “if we don’t have a more generous and expansive citation policy, the 
current one will prove to be a massive roadblock that you literally can’t get 
past. There is a very finite amount of citable material, which means a very 
finite number of articles, and there will be no more.”

Mr. Prabhala, 38, who grew up in India and then attended American universities, 
has been an activist on issues of intellectual property, starting with the 
efforts in South Africa to free up drugs that treat H.I.V. In the film, he 
gives other examples of subjects — an alcohol produced in a village, 
Ga-Sabotlane, in Limpopo, South Africa, and a popular hopscotch-type children’s 
game, tshere-tshere — beyond print documentation and therefore beyond 
Wikipedia’s true-and-tried method.

There are whole cultures, he said, that have little to no printed material to 
cite as proof about the way life is lived.
“Publishing is a system of power and I mean that in a completely pleasant, 
accepting sense,” he said mischievously. “But it leaves out people.”

But Mr. Prabhala offers a solution: he and the video’s directors, Priya Sen and 
Zen Marie, spoke with people in African and Indian villages either in person or 
over the phone and had them describe basic activities. These recordings were 
then uploaded and linked to the article as sources, and suddenly an article 
that seems like it could be a personal riff looks a bit more academic.

For example, in his interview with a South African villager who explained how 
to make the alcoholic drink, morula, she repeatedly says that it is best if she 
demonstrates the process. When the fruit is ready, said the villager, Philipine 
Moremi, according to the project’s transcript of her phone conversation, “we 
pry them open. We are going to show you how it is done. Once they are peeled, 
we seal them to ferment and then we drink.” The idea of treating personal 
testimony as a source for Wikipedia is still controversial, and reflects the 
concerns that dominated the encyclopedia project six years ago, when arguably 
its very existence was threatened.

After a series of hoaxes, culminating in a Wikipedia article in 2005 that 
maligned the newspaper editor John Seigenthaler for no discernible reason other 
than because a Wikipedia contributor could, the site tried to ensure that every 
statement could be traced to a source.

Then there is the rule “no original research,” which was meant to say that 
Wikipedia doesn’t care if you are writing about the subway station you visit 
every day, find someone who has written reliably on the color of the walls 

“The natural thing is getting more and more accurate, locking down articles, 
raising the bar on sources,” said Andrew Lih, an associate professor of 
journalism at the University of Southern California, who was an early 
contributor to Wikipedia and has written a history of its rise. “Isn’t it great 
we have so many texts online?”

But what works for the most developed societies, he said, won’t necessarily 
work for others. “Lots of knowledge is not Googleable,” he said, “and is not in 
a digital form.”

Mr. Lih said that he could see the Wikipedia project suddenly becoming 
energized by the process of documenting cultural practices around the world, or 
down the street.

Perhaps Mr. Prabhala’s most challenging argument is that by being text-focused, 
and being locked into the Encyclopedia Britannica model, Wikipedia risks being 
behind the times.
An 18-year-old is comfortable using “objects of trust that have been created on 
the Internet,” he said, and “Wikipedia isn’t taking advantage of that.” And, he 
added, “it is quite possible that for the 18-year-old of today that Wikipedia 
looks like his father’s project. Or the kind of thing his father might be 
interested in.”


RegardsTinu Cherian


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