Sooner or later, as a modern-day history major you have to figure out where you stand on Wikipedia. It’s either something you depend on, something you avoid, or something you use but try not to acknowledge. Where do you stand? More important if you are a serious history major, how should the profession adapt in this Wiki Age?
The answers don’t come easy anymore. For years, history professors warned students away from Wikipedia. But now some are welcoming it. William Cronon, a distinguished historian, used his term as president of the American Historical Association (AHA) to advocate for making Wikipedia better. Check out Cronon’s 2012 editorial on the subject. He makes some powerful points, but historian Timothy Messer-Kruse’s dismal experience with trying to improve a mediocre Wikipedia entry highlights some of the inherent problems with this crowd-sourced and surprisingly rigid online encyclopedia. More recently, historian Stephen Campbell reports to the AHA about his challenges in trying to live up to Cronon’s call to action.
And even more recently, the AHA reports in September 2016 on the continuing struggles by historians to counteract the biases of Wikipedia’s content policies.
What’s your opinion? Feel free to comment.
This post was updated in September 2016