A viewpoint on a viewpoint on Wikipedia’s neutral point of view

Posted on Updated on

I recently looked into what we have of Wikipedia research from Denmark and discovered several papers that I did not know about. I have now added some to Wikidata, so that Scholia can show a list of them.

Among the papers was one from Jens-Erik Mai titled Wikipedian’s knowledge and moral duties. Starting from the English Wikipedia’s Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy, he stresses a dichotomy between the subjective and the object and argues for a rewrite of the policy. Mai claims the policy has an absolutistic center and a relativistic edge, corresponding to an absolutistic majority view and relativistic minority views.

As a long time Wikipedia editor, I find Mai’s exposition is too theoretical. I lack good exemplifications: cases where the NPOV fails, and I cannot see in what concrete way the NPOV policy should be changed to accommodate Mai’s critique. I am not sure that Wikipedians distinguish so much between the objective and the subjective; the key dichotomy is verifiability vs. not veriability, – that the statements in Wikipedia are supported by reliable sources. In terms of center-edge, I came to think of events associated with conspiracy theories. Here the “center” view could be the conventional view while the conspiracy views the edge. It is difficult for me to accommodate a standpoint that conspiracy theories should be accepted as equal as the conventional view. It is neither clear to me that the center is uncontested and uncontroversial. Wikipedia – like a newspaper – has the ability to represent opposing viewpoints. This is done by attributing the viewpoint to the reliable sources that express them. For instance, central in the description of evaluation of films are quotations from reviews of major newspapers and notable reviewers.

I don’t see the support for the claim that the NPOV policy assumes a “politically dangerous ethical position”. On the contrary, Wikipedia is now – after the increase of fake news – been called the “last bastion”. The example given in The Atlantic post is the recent social media fuzz with respect to Sarah Jeong where Wikipedians reach a work with “shared facts about reality.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s