Blogs > Cliopatria > Afri-Wiki?

Dec 14, 2005 10:23 pm


I recently posted about some rather atypical academic behavior -- constructively engaging a problem rather than just griping about it. In this case, the issue was the accuracy of Africa-related material in the Wikipedia.

The discussion at H-Africa has now moved beyond the initial (and still very smart) call for Africanists and their students to write material for the Wikipedia, and has developed into a discussion by some tech-savy young scholars about how to organize the effort.

In particular, Donald Z. Osborn has suggested the creation of an"AfriWiki" system (modestly rejecting my own attempt to dub it the"Osborn initiative") which would incorporate an alert system wherein sharp-eyed users could report problems (be they inaccuracies or ommissions) so they could be logged and listed until attended to -- at which point they would be identified as" corrected" or"edited."

Interestingly, Osborn states that he was inspired to start thinking about things AfriWiki when he heard from a Geekcorp friend who was working with Malian colleagues to establish a Bamana-language version of the Wikipedia.

Anyway, with such an AfriWiki system in place, Faculty who wanted to get involved in the process or writing or assigning the edits as class projects could simply visit the "Afri-Wiki" alert page to see what sort of entries were needed.

Plain and simple, this is a good idea, and the fact that it is being advanced is evidence that at least some Africanists are embracing new mechanisms for the dissimination of information. As yet another forward-thinking young scholar, Richard Bradshaw, states"Peer review has its place, but review and reaction by the wider general public and student populations is also extremely important..."

The process will require a lot of work, and also a degree of technical support from some progressive and intelligent institution, to get it beyond the"good idea" stage. And, of course, there are potential pitfalls. It certainly won't stop the ideologically-driven editing and counter-editing that is behind so much Wiki-Mayhem. But, hey, you can't expect too much change in academia too quickly. I'm just pleased to see less grumping and more doing.

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