SESSION 5: 13.30 – 15.30. Saturday, March 27

Every technological innovation, but particularly innovations affecting knowledge production bring with them a new set of anxieties and concerns. The massive growth of Wikipedia as a collaborative encyclopedia, which can be edited by anyone has raised a number of concerns. This paper seeks to address the debate on the authority of knowledge vis a vis Wikipedia through a slightly different lens, Rather than addressing the concerns of knowledge brought through the emergence of ‘new media’, I would instead like to locate the emergence of the idea of the authority of knowledge itself, through a historical examination of ‘old media’. I will be looking at the early history of the book and the print revolution to argue that the authority of knowledge that one presumes for the book is not something that was inherent to it, and in fact the early history of the book is filled with conflicts around the question of how you could rely on a book as an artifact of authoritative knowledge. By examining the conditions that enabled the establishment of the book and the encyclopedia as stable objects of knowledge, I hope to return us to a different way of thinking about Wikipedia and the debates on its authority.

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