Wikipedia drifts greatly from traditional understandings of the Encyclopaedia. Its continuously and openly editable nature make it a constantly incomplete artefact and removes former one-to-many, hierarchical, expert dominated production chains. Wikipedia’s detractor consequently argue that it’s unworthy of its encyclopaedia claim and the place on the ‘reliable information’ pedestal traditionally associated with such descriptions. It has been criticised for opening itself to amateur content, truthiness and vandalism. Wikipedia is often discarded as unreliable, and its information is usually forbidden for academic use.
But even though Wikipedia recognises itself that it is far from being perfect, it still acts as a valid encyclopaedic resource for information. Its collaborative nature opens for a more meritocratic information economy, whereby content is uploaded by anybody, and its fate decided by its quality rather the its contributor’s degree. Whilst differs greatly from the approach of traditional encyclopaedias, Wikipedia opens itself to a greater range of knowledge, and a model that can be updated and edited easier than previous forms. So whilst Wikipedia does stray from traditional conventions, it is no less, if not more, worthy of the encyclopaedic description. Like any encyclopaedia, or mediated information for that matter, Wikipedia is the first to acknoweldge here that it should never be swallowed without a healthy does of scepticism and research. Instead, as Melbourne University’s Academic Skills Unit recommends “Wikipedia is a convenient and useful website for getting some background information about a topic or concept… lika a dictionary and encyclopaedia.”