Final Wikipedia Reflection

Wikipedia Theory

In applying the texts that we’ve read throughout the semester to the Wikipedia project, I thought a lot about/came back to Shirky’s essay about "Communities, Audiences, And Scale."  In his essay, Shirky explores the differences between communities and audiences, specifically in the way that each engages with media, and in the way that members of each interact with others.
An audience, as Shirky explains, is a “one-to-many” relationship/dynamic. Media that engages an audience is concerned with reaching as many people as possible, and is not concerned with close, densely connected networks of relationships. This is great for disseminating information on a wide scale and reaching a mass demographic/population, but the downside is that it doesn’t encourage cooperation/interaction among members of the same audience. The inverse of the audience is the community. Shirky writes that a community has a “many-to-many” dynamic.
Communities are smaller, and more interconnected than audiences. Media that engages a community is designed to allow the members within the community to interact with one another freely. Community model is good for “sending messages to a tight knit group, but bad for reaching a large and dispersed group.”
I think Wikipedia is a hybrid of both the audience and the community approaches/models. Wikipedia is an audience-based platform in that articles are typically read by vast amounts of people who have no connections/links/relationships to one another. The article is the broadcast and the readers are the viewers, hence the “one-to-many” relationship. Wikipedia also takes the community model, but its community members are not the same as the audience members. The community model applies to the contributors, editors, and writers who create context for Wikipedia. These members can often have relationships/connections/links to one another, exemplified by the Talk pages in which individuals can interact with writers of particular articles. The fact that articles can consist of information that was added by multiple contributors is evidence of the community model. Even the relationship that I had with my fellow Wikipedian and peer reviewer, Shalor, can be an example of the community model.
Shirky asks the question “Can we get the best of both worlds? Can we have a medium that spreads messages to a large audience, but also allows all the members of that audience to engage with one another like a single community?” I don’t think Wikipedia can accomplish this goal. The only possible example of this that I could think of could perhaps be something like Youtube. Youtube can use visual media (videos) to disseminate information to a wide audience whose members have no personal connections. If you consider the comments section of youtube, however, you can see members of an audience communicating with the content creator, as well as interactions between audience members, resulting in a sort of community. I think youtube is not a strong example for many reasons. One, while Youtube can be used to distribute, teach, and spread information, it is also used for reasons that aren’t related to these things. Additionally, the comments section can’t be thought of as a real community, since people are not necessarily engaging in any meaning, mutual relationships, its mostly inappropriate, childish comments.  

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