The Academic Lineage of Wikipedia:

Connections and Disconnections in the Theory and Practice of History

School of History and Philosophy
University of New South Wales, 2008

Supervised by Professor Ian Tyrrell

Below is the Abstract or click here to see the Summary of Chapters

University medal-1

And for my efforts I was awarded the University Medal!

I apologise for not putting the thesis up online for all to read. I’m trying to get it published as either a series of independent peer-reviewed journal articles or maybe even as a book in its own right.

Nevertheless, I’d be happy to send you a copy of it if you ask.

[If you are from Europe and are more famillair with the Bologna Process, this degree is equivalent to what you would call a Masters. If you are from America this is equivalent to graduating Summa Cum Laude.]

 Thesis Abstract

The theory and practice of Wikipedia has a common heritage with professional  history. In spite of the project being very new, the number and variety of its authors and the ambivalence of academia towards it, Wikipedians have created an encyclopedia that upholds high standards of scholarship and encyclopedism. Simultaneously it provides universal easy access to knowledge. The policies and practices enacted by Wikipedia to achieve these standards are rarely unique. Facing the same challenges that encyclopedists, lexicographers, translators, librarians and archivists have before, it does not achieve a uniformly high standard but it is a new chapter in a very old book.

This thesis divides the relevant fields of historiography into three parts. The first discusses how the idea of “free” is related to history production and disseminationthe concept of the “author” over time to argue that it has never been static nor is Wikipedia unique. Rather, it is a new form. Specifically discussed are ideas of readership; of mass authorship; the authority of knowledge; cultures of reading and the universalist ideal. The third part deconstructs “truth” to show that Wikipedia is not undermining the importance of this complex idea. Elements examined are the value of professionalism as opposed to amateurism; the fixity of knowledge; and concepts of verifiability, neutrality and objectivity. by looking at methods by which it is curtailed—through copyright; censorship; destruction; price and language. Wikipedia is the latest in a long line of defenders of the ideal of free knowledge. The second part looks at

Having demonstrated the relationship of Wikipedia’s theory and practice to the discipline of history, the final chapter uses Wikipedia’s articles to highlight practical means by which historians might engage with the project as a historical source and still maintain professional standards. Discussion pages, several associated paratexts and the statistics demonstrating article popularity are considered. Finally, there is a discussion about how historians can be directly involved in the Wikipedia project—by editing it.

Continue to Summary of Chapters