The associate professor of information systems from Deakin University believes that the popular online encyclopedia promotes an environment of blind trust among users searching for information.
Professor Lichtenstein, who is is co-leading a team of researchers to determine how Wikipedia operates, is not impressed with Wikipedia’s model of relying on “lay citizens” rather than traditional experts. While experts have never been 100% correct, she maintains that “a group of untrained people can be more misleading.”
Professor Lichtenstein says the reliance by students on Wikipedia for finding information, and acceptance of the practice by teachers and academics, was “crowding out” valuable knowledge and creating a generation unable to source “credible expert” views even if desired. “People are unwittingly trusting the information they find on Wikipedia, yet experience has shown it can be wrong, incomplete, biased, or misleading,” she said.
Lichtenstein’s students are not allowed to cite Wikipedia in their work. She elaborates: “If you had to have brain surgery would you prefer someone who has been through medical school, trained and researched in the field, or the student next to you who has read Wikipedia?”
Though I would not dismiss Wikipedia in its entirety, some of Professor Lichtenstein’s arguments do make sense. Would you rely on the information in a Wikipedia article or use it simply as a means to get an initial understanding? Even if you use it as a starting point, do you get tempted not to look further?