Is it wrong to require citations?

Posted on August 8, 2011  /  0 Comments

CPRsouth, LIRNEasia’s primary vehicle for capacity building, places great weight on the practice of “standing on the shoulders of giants,” also known as conducting literature reviews, and referring to previous work through citations. Is this an importation of an alien Western practice? Is there an alternative?

Our objectives and those of Wikipedia are not the same. Still, it may be interesting to see if there is anything to be learned from the Wikimania debate.

Some critics of Wikipedia believe that the whole Western tradition of footnotes and sourced articles needs to be rethought if Wikipedia is going to continue to gather converts beyond its current borders. And that, in turn, invites an entirely new debate about what constitutes knowledge in different parts of the world and how a Western institution like Wikipedia can capitalize on it.

But what works for the most developed societies, he said, won’t necessarily work for others. “Lots of knowledge is not Googleable,” he said, “and is not in a digital form.”

Mr. Lih said that he could see the Wikipedia project suddenly becoming energized by the process of documenting cultural practices around the world, or down the street.

Perhaps Mr. Prabhala’s most challenging argument is that by being text-focused, and being locked into the Encyclopedia Britannica model, Wikipedia risks being behind the times.

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