SESSION 2 Encyclopedia Histories: 13.30 – 15.30. Friday, March 26
The way in which Wikipedia is collaboratively produced has caught the attention of the world. Discourse about the efficacy and legitimacy of such a work abound, from the news pages of the New York Times to the satire of the Onion. Building on the literature around controversies surrounding other reference works, such as Harvey Einbinder’s The Myth of the Britannica and Herbert Morton’s The Story of Webster’s Third, I make a broader argument that reference works can serve as a flashpoint for larger social anxieties about technological and social change. With this understanding in hand, I try to make sense of the social unease embodied in and prompted by Wikipedia by way of four themes: collaborative practice, universal vision, encyclopedic impulse, and technological inspiration.