Future Thoughts

So I know for certain that my digital text will be an example of “Wikipedia Wars”, meaning it will definitely be multiple pages of Wikipedia entries. However I’m not sure if I should make the entries meaningful to this class or purely random to demonstrate the intricacies of the game.  I’m leaning towards the second but then I have to find two exquisitely random pages to start and end with. Suggestions?

In ten years.. Assuming we are sticking purely to the interface of Wikipedia and ignoring all the possibilities of holographic images and whatnot…I’d like to think some other senses can be incorporated.  3D interactive images to better display diagrams, animals, medical procedures, etc. I think that the spirit of Wikipedia will still be the same, free information for all, by all.  That is also its major limitation.  Free, meaning it relies strictly on donations, and by all, meaning it is still an unreliable and constantly changing source of information.  Being so dynamic, it is a wonderful tool to bring into the future 10 years from now, because all the old information will remain and only gather and grow with time. Because it serves such a universal purpose though I don’t imagine it changing too monstrously or else it would cease to serve its purpose and become something else entirely.


I think I want to use my digital text more as an example of the bigger picture of my inquiry project, rather than the main portion of it.  The reason for this is that it seems throughout my research and thought process my main interest has been less of the “HEY Wikipedia is a great site for free knowledge and collaboration!” and more of “HEY Wikipedia is a great example of the endless connections that can be made and because it’s endless it has something for everyone to find interesting!” So I don’t know if I’d qualify this as a “policy change” or anything, but I would at least like to introduce some ideas that may slightly alter people’s way of thinking about education, learning, and knowledge.  I am considering trying to introduce a bit of a policy change in that I would suggest a classroom experience that I think would be useful to students.  Other than that I would really just like to speak passionately about questing for knowledge and discuss how to get children interested and excited in this quest.

Pass the Nugget!

Knowledge is power and so it tends to be
hoarded. Experts in any field rarely want
people to understand what they do, and
generally enjoy putting people down.
Thus if we say that the use of computers
is dominated by a priesthood, people who
spatter you with unintelligible answers and
seem unwilling to give you straight ones, it
is not that they are different in this respect
from any other profession.
For those of you who have come to know me, my project, and what I am advocating with it, it should come as no surprise to you that this paragraph stood out to me.  As a knowledge-seeker and supporter of fellow knowledge-seekers, I want to believe that this statement is false. Or at least no longer valid in the fourty-something years since it’s been written. And I think I can support that it is an outdated idea, although the author does make some good points.  I do believe that right now anyone motivated enough can find the knowledge they seek with the help of computers.  However, as the author is quick to point out, this knowledge can be encoded in a secret language known only to the experts. In fact, the author states that his main motivation is to create a meaningful and not entirely boring piece of work for the sake of the laymen who can not break this code.  That is something I appreciate.  Let’s tie this back into me and my project (not because I am terribly self absorbed, but because I am fulfilling project requirements!)  I think this so strongly relates back to what inspires me about Wikipedia, linksurfing, and the pursuit of knowledge.  This priesthood that the author speaks of has disbanded and their power has gone to the atheists! Knowledge seekers can now get a crash-course in virtually any topic they could imagine, and some they can’t just by surfing the web.  Experts (and admittedly plenty of NOT experts) share their knowledge with the world just for the sake of educating.  This is such an exciting fact when you stop to think about it and I hope people take proper advantage of the opportunity.
It’s interesting how different two nuggets can be that come from the same original source, and how these different nuggets can lead to such different thoughts and topics of conversation.  This difference became very apparent after reading Helena’s blog post which discusses the humanity or lack thereof in robots.  This line of inquiry started from the exact same place mine did, but because our research topics are so different we were both drawn to different portions of the reading.

This totally doesn’t relate to me or my nugget, but I am amused by this all the same.  Contrary to my previous paragraph about how interesting I found it to diverge from one source, the next two blogs I read were basically the exact same posts! So I can now make the exact opposite post!  Jeremy Watts and JawadBlog chose the exact same nugget, discussed it in similar terms, but have fairly dissimilar research topics.  One is looking into technology and human consciousness, and the other about how social media has affected music, yet they both brought up similar points about the nugget in connection to their own topics.  Does anyone else find this interesting? Because I find this fascinating.

Extending My Dream

Well it looks like I’m not the only one confused about this part so I’m just gonna roll with it and I’ll edit this once I get some clarification from Dr. Coats.

Can Wikipedia lead to #valid_research?

Is #Wikipedia a #valid_source?

Can #open_editing be used for good?

Will #anonymous_editing lead to trouble?

Can Wikipedia bring #universal_knowledge?

Is Wikipedia a #platform_of_research?

How can Wikipedia lead #students to #answers?


Dreamers Unite!

Alright, folks, time to get down to the nitty-gritty.  (can I just take a moment though to appreciate my computer’s spell check suggestions? Which do y’all prefer: “bitty-gritty”, “titty-gritty”, or “ditty-gritty”? all of which are apparently more valid than nitty.)


Anyways, back to work. It looks like my study is pushing towards the direction of discussing the validity or lack thereof in Wikipedia. Or possibly Wikipedia as a platform of research, which I have discussed at length in past posts. I would like to open this topic up to you by starting with a TEDTalk about how Wikipedia started, what its mission statement is, and how it actually works.  The founder discusses the apparent flaws of the site and how to be mindful of them, as well as how they are countered.

Now, why should you join me on this roller coaster of an adventure? Well, first of all it’d probably make your project a lot easier. As Dr. Coats said, share the load.  But why should you share with ME?  Because nearly every single one of you has cited Wikipedia in your preliminary research for your project.  Doubt me? Check out some of your fellow class mate’s Concept Experiences.  Students RELY on Wikipedia for primary research and, like it or not, it’s here to stay.  So, what I propose is we as students band together to explore what Wikipedia really can do for us in this digital age and bring this to the professors of the world.  That way we can come to them with research and a consensus on its validity (or lack thereof, as said before. I recognize that Wikipedia is not a creditable source in the citation of a research paper) in our lives.

How do I propose to do this? Well likely through the normal sort of research and persuasive essay.  If you ask how I’d LIKE to do this.. Well I was toying with the idea of turning my blog into a sort of open experience like Wikipedia.  What I mean for this is, I would open my blog up to the public, allow people to create and edit my posts while I moderate.  If I were to do this I would hope that my fellow students would respect the idea and keep vandalism to a minimum and instead try to create and interact with each other in a positive way.  However, I don’t expect this idea to come to fruition simply because I don’t trust you guys to be interested enough to participate. I mean let’s me honest, it’s hard enough to make us all post on our own blogs, I can hardly expect you guys to take time out of your day to participate in mine.  But if anyone thinks this might be an interesting experiment or beneficial to their own project I would love to hear from you and discuss how this might become realized. 
Otherwise, on a more simple note: Join me in my research because I think most of you could easily link your research to mine.  I mean there is almost guaranteed to be a Wikipedia entry on your topic.  So why not! Join me!


The Interpretation of Dreams

I am going to write this post under the assumption that readers will have first read Texting My Dreams. Frankly if only for the reason that I don’t want to go back and summarize these pages.  But basically I was tasked to get from the Wikipedia entry of Mary Toft (famous for pretending to give birth to bunnies) to the entry for Alchemy by only clicking on hyperlinks in the article. I got there in just a few steps Toft>Urine>Mercury>Alchemy (okay I guess I am resummarizing anyways).  So why are these pages particularly interesting? They aren’t. Well, they are, but maybe not more than other pages would be. Why is this interesting as a whole? Because without the use of Wikipedia, if I tasked you to explain how Mary Toft relates to Alchemy (assuming you knew who she was) you would probably have a hard time of it.  They are seemingly unrelated.  However, through some skillful research and foresight it’s easy to connect the dots.

Until I learn what form this final project will really take so I can tailor this topic to it, I am going to pursue the topic of connecting ideas through Wikipedia.  Through word association and skillful guessing (through prior knowledge and guessing I assumed that urine would take me to alchemy faster than, say, placenta or Voltaire) I was able to connect ideas in a way I never could have done alone. So this is what really fascinates me and what I hope I can convince  you is fascinating.    One thing that I particularly noticed is that for nearly every Concept Experience I read, the student started their search on Wikipedia. I think that is very interesting and worth exploring.
As for my original nugget, I actually really enjoyed stemming off from the text into the Turing Test.  I have been fascinated with the concept since my sister first explained it to me.  However, if I were to try again I would maybe try to pull more from the text and tie back to it rather than take one specific concept and run away with it.  But I enjoyed it so…meh.

Texting My Dream

I am going to begin this project by playing a little game of Wikipedia Wars.  Courtesy of Jamie Parkerson I have been tasked with getting from ‘Mary Toft’s’ page to the Wikipedia entry for ‘Alchemy’ using only Wikipedia hyperlinks.  For the fun of it I will summarize what I learn from each page because what’s the point if I’m not learning anything! Here we go!

>>Mary Toft  – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Toft

how convenient! The Wikipedia entry is the first hit on google! Oh Wikipedia, you omnipresent you.

Why is she famous? Oh no big deal, she just fooled a team of doctors into believing she gave birth to RABBITS. Basically she was pregnant, miscarried, and then for some reason decided to fool several surgeons into believing she was giving birth to animal parts! So that’s interesting. Thanks, Jamie, great start.
I’m trying to decide which hyperlink will most effectively get me to Alchemy.  Most of them are names I don’t recognize so I will skip those for now.  I recognize this kind of goes against the whole research-for-curiosity thing, but I am also trying to keep this thread a manageable size.  I am currently torn between urine and journeyman.  Urine being an ingredient in old medicine which can lead to alchemy, and journeyman as a trade. Let’s try urine just for the sheer entertainment of it.

>>Urine – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urine

The color of your urine can indicate any sort of illness or malfunction you are having. So if it’s orange or dark brown…go see a doctor! The pH varies between 4.6 and 8 but should be closer to neutral on average.  People pee more than a liter a day! So drink lots of water.   Ooh interesting fact: when mixed with water urine can make a fantastic fertilizer.  Its results are comparable to commercial brand fertilizer.  This is important because liquid human waste doesn’t carry the heavy metals that solid waste does, such as Mercury which is a no-no in the soil.  Which brings me to my next page!

>>Mercury – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_%28element%29

The 80th element of the periodic table. Mercury poisoning can occur from the inhalation of vapor or contact with liquid form.  It used to be used in lamps, barometers, thermometers, etc. but with the concern of poisoning they’ve been phased out.  Here’s the best part:
“ALCHEMISTS thought of mercury as the First Matter from which all metals were formed.”  I think I know where my next stop is.

>>Alchemists – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alchemy (alchemists redirected straight to alchemy. Yay I win!)

Formed around the concept of transforming base metals into other, more valuable metals. With alchemy comes the concepts of immortality and endless riches. With the philosopher’s stone it was thought that any metal could be transfigured into gold.

OKAY. So why did I do all that? For now we are going to consider these my static web pages.  As I develop my concept I may change the pages to something more relevant, but this is a start. I think what’s important about my approach to this is not the specific pages, but the way I got from one completely independent topic to the other.  I’m really in love with this style of research because it’s easy to ask the right questions and get engaged without knowing which direction I will end up in.  I’m still not positive how this will all end up though so I am eager for feedback and suggestions!

Wikipedia: The Obvious Choice

Alright, I feel like I will have better luck of this if I document as I go.  So here we go, it is 4:31 and it’s time to think about the obvious facts of Wikipedia.  A few that come to mind:

-It’s accessible and editable by anyone

-Students prefer it to “legitimate” sources

-Teachers hate that students prefer it

-Hyperlinks, works cited, in text citations, etc. exist to keep it legitimate and regulated.

(I may have bounced a few ideas off of my room mate to collect these four)

Obvious statement turned into a research question:  Why do students prefer Wikipedia?  (I realize that perhaps this is speaking broadly, but all through high school I saw students getting information from Wikipedia and masking it in legitimate citations. 

The research begins…
>”Why do students prefer Wikipedia?” Image

Not a great start.. The first two might be useful but the rest are actually just Wikipedia articles that picked up words in my search.  HOWEVER. I actually find this very amusing and useful to my point. If I were a student searching the internet for inspiration on a topic to interest me, look how broad my search was that lead me to such specific topics on Wikipedia.  Right this moment I would much rather read what Wikipedia has to say on “physical attractiveness” or “auditory learning” than continue this.  But I digress..

> Should University Students Use Wikipedia?
I’m giving my broad search a shot and clicked on the first result, an article from The Guardian.  I don’t have to go further than the first paragraph to get the quote “American research shows that the majority of students browse its pages when researching essays.” with hyperlink included.  That will be my next stop.   I also really appreciate the following quote because it really confirms two of my obvious statements as well as asks what I have been asking since middle school.  The quote asks “But why is the academic world so hostile to this vast information resource? And why do students find it so hard to stay away?” 
Some points that the article brought up in my mind:

-I wholeheartedly agree that Wikipedia citations do NOT belong in a research paper.  However this brings up a problem with plagiarism in students. In an ideal world, a student would use the information from Wikipedia to focus his/her research from other sources and verify the wikifacts.  Basically, whatever is read and used from Wikipedia should be cited from elsewhere.

-Perhaps professors need to change their approach to Wikipedia and their students. If they use it as a learning tool instead to demonstrate critical analysis of a text and fact checking, the students could become better researchers.  For instance, the professor could falsely alter a page and have the students critically analyze the text and find the errors.  This would demonstrate how easy it is to be misinformed and how easy it is to fact check.  I actually kind of love this idea I just came up with. 


> How Today’s College Students use Wikipedia for Course-Related Research
I got here from a link in the previous site.  It is a very well documented and explained research paper outlining the methods and results of their survey of Wikipedia users.  Many students reported that they use Wikipedia as a preliminary research guide to gain background information.  Other explanations for its use include the useful hyperlinks, the easy to comprehend text and layout, and the up-to-date information.   This site was a great find but I’m tired of looking at statistics and you all don’t need to hear them.  Mooooving on.

> Benefits of Wikipedia in Education                                                                                                                                                  Nothing here.  More wikipedia articles, the first article I wrote about, and miscellaneous Yahoo Answers posts I don’t want to deal with. Moving on!

> Teacher Attitudes towards Wikipedia                                                                                                                                                   Now that’s better!  The first results were even from Google Scholar!  We are going to keep using simple articles though because I am still in the preliminary “wikipedia” phase of my research.

> Are We Ready to Use Wikipedia to Teach Writing?                                                                                                                           The professor speaking in this article responds to an enraged teacher who disavows any student who uses Wikipedia.  The professor (the enraged one)  claims that the website is so ridden with inaccuracy that you’d ‘do better to ask a stranger on the street about your topic.’  The author (the not-enraged professor) argues that, yes, it may not be entirely factual, but by that logic neither is the information received through the telephone.  You can not guarantee that what you are hearing is true.  I think he would do better to relate this to the childhood game Telephone, but I’ll let that slide.  The non-enraged professor urges us to consider Wikipedia a tool of the future, not the scourge of the internet.


>>>Alright, I have no obvious place to go from here and I’m sure your eyes need a break (mine sure do!)