Tuesday, December 26, 2006

What faculty governance can learn from Wikipedia

WikipediaAs I've said elsewhere in this blog network, I love Wikipedia:
Crowds really do know more than experts. Self-governance by the world at large is possible. Knowledge is power. The best things in life are free.
One of the most amazing things about Wikipedia is the community's ability to govern itself. The so-called Wikipedia Community does so with remarkable civility and efficiency. (One example: Wikipedia has kept creationist-minded trolls from completely destroying its entry on evolution.) When it comes to self-governance, this global network of total strangers connected solely by electronic means and a strictly intellectual interest outperforms a large number of smaller, more tightly knit communities.

Bully pulpitWikipedia follows a remarkably simple list of policies and guidelines. Those policies allow room for more personal "essays," or opinion pieces on how Wikipedia should be governed. Both the English-speaking Wikipedia community and the Meta-Wiki community have gathered dozens of essays expounding finer points of Wikipedia governance. Indeed, MoneyLaw and other blogs of its kind are arguably nothing more than collections of personal essays about proper self-governance in a slightly different set of intellectual communities -- individual law schools and legal academia at large.

One of those essays on the policies and guidelines of the Wikipedia community strikes me as essential reading for anyone interested in improving faculty governance and academic culture. This essay persuasively describes "the fundamental rule of all social spaces." As a bonus, reading the Wikipedia essay in question puts you one click away from this remarkably prescient and insightful essay on a related but broader social phenomenon. (Linguanaut's Yiddish page captures perfectly my reaction to David Kendrick's essay: "גוט איז דאָס !אוי" -- "Oy! Doz iz gut!") Given this forum's persistent interest in Arschlöcher, I strongly recommend that MoneyLaw readers, especially in this annual season of hope, redemption, and renewal, ponder the basic rules of social engagement that strangers on Wikipedia seem to master -- and members of the same university faculty so often don't.


Blogger Jeff Harrison said...

Unfortunately, the majority gets to define what a dick is and may apply the term to real dicks and to those who are just making their world a little less cozy. Long live "dicks."

12/26/2006 7:13 PM  
Blogger Nancy Rapoport said...

Don't forget that Stephen Colbert played a pretty comprehensive prank on Wikipedia--thereby creating a whole new concept of truthiness.... See, e.g., http://news.com.com/2061-10802_3-6100754.html.

12/26/2006 8:11 PM  

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