Author: Thomas Leitch
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Summary: This book wasn’t a success as either an entertaining read or as a well thought out scholarly work.
Despite discouragement from many teachers, I feel like student use of Wikipedia is on the rise, so I was excited to read about the phenomenon from an educator’s perspective. However, as I perhaps should have gathered from the description and subtitle, the main focus of this book is on the nature of authority. Wikipedia is primarily used as an example of a situation where authorities are in conflict and the source of authority is up for debate.
Given that the focus of this book was the nature of authority, I think that organizing it as though the main focus was Wikipedia did the book a disservice. For example, one of the first topics of the book is on the origins of Wikipedia. This is a topic I’m very curious about, but the discussion here was so theoretical, I didn’t feel I learned much. There were a lot of digressions into the history of computers, the history of dictionaries, etc, which were only necessary so the author could make some abstract points about the nature of authority. These points weren’t very clear or well organized because the whole chapter was divided based on different aspects of Wikipedia, instead of based on different points the author was trying to make about authority.
Like Generic, this is a John Hopkins University Press book, so I did expect it to be academic and wouldn’t knock it too much for simply being dry. Unfortunately, the whole book was a poorly organized mishmash of entertaining stories and abstract discussion of authority. There were also some academic errors, including conclusions I found illogical and injections of the author’s political views without supporting citations. As a result, I don’t think this book was a success as either an entertaining read or as a well thought out scholarly work.