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I am an associate professor in Latin American Studies at the University of British Columbia. Previously, I worked in the UK (where I am from), and I have a Ph.D from Duke University.

I first came here when I realized that there was a Wikipedia article on Posthegemony. And then I stayed.

On Wikipedia I am mostly interested in improving the coverage of Latin American literature and culture. I'm not terribly active these days, though this varies.

Views on Wikipedia[edit]

I believe that academics should be involved in Wikipedia, and that Wikipedia has a place in higher education. This does not mean, however, that I endorse everything about the encyclopedia. Indeed, I believe that almost all the criticisms you hear about Wikipedia are almost entirely correct; but that this is precisely why we should be involved.

I have given various talks about Wikipedia, social media, and education. For instance, at UBC I was part of a panel on "Academic Adventures in Wikipedia". And here I am at Northern Voice, 2010. At Southampton University in the UK I gave a presentation on "Knowledge 3.0: E-Learning, Social Media, and the Neoliberal University" And more recently, at Canada's ACCESS2011 conference, I gave a related presentation entitled "From Access to Interactivity".

And you can see me on YouTube: On Teaching with Wikipedia and the subsequent Q&A.

Lots of people seem to have liked my essay "Was Introducing Wikipedia to the Classroom an Act of Madness Leading Only to Mayhem if not Murder?" In Barcelona, they even turned it into a leaflet.

And along with Awadewit and AEG_English4994 (who did most of the work), I helped write an essay on "Opening Up the Academy with Wikipedia" for the open-source book Hacking the Academy

Views on the Wikipedia Education Program[edit]

I've been following this discussion (and over the past several months others previous, including the RFC and the various scattered fallout over the Pune program etc.). I've also had quite a bit to do with the various incarnations of the EP, from an informal meeting in San Francisco, to seeing members of the team in Barcelona, to being part of the Jamboree in Boston. (These guys get around, I tell you... I mean, I obviously do, too, but mostly on my own dime and nowhere near as much as they do.)

Most of the WMF folk are well-intentioned (and they're better than some of the people who went before... Rod, for instance), but with few exceptions (Sage is one) they have not much idea about how Wikipedia actually works, and have never been active Wikipedians. Moreover, as an institution the WMF is much better at promotion and spin, but has little investment in following up on what they have started. This whole business of handing off the program, as though it were a hot potato that they no longer want to touch, is a very poor show indeed.

Meanwhile, there are a lot of people in academia who, in part encouraged by the WMF (but in part spurred by examples such as my own), have become very excited about the possibilities of using Wikipedia in the classroom. I met Steve Joordens, for instance, in Boston. He's a good guy but even at the time I was wondering how on earth he could pull off something with a class of 1500 students. Sadly, in the celebratory atmosphere of that meeting, it was hard to raise any doubts, cautions, or caveats. At the same meeting there was also much excitement about the Pune program, and we all know what happened there...

In short, for a variety of reasons a lot of hopes have been raised around this program. And a lot of good material has been produced. Sometimes things have gone well. But when things have gone wrong, they have gone badly wrong, and the WMF hasn't wanted to hear any doubts, and hasn't wanted to pick up the pieces.

Frankly, it's a crying shame because the WMF has had oodles of money and resources passing through its hands, and masses of goodwill, especially but not only from academics. It's been a shame to see that money and those resources too often wasted, in almost every way conceivable. (The Barcelona junket was a particular disaster, but it was one I saw only by accident, as I happened to be at the Mozilla Fest there in any case. The Wikimedia folk there had scarcely a clue as to what they were doing, and yet they had a golden opportunity to make connections and to talk to people, both to learn and to gain allies.)

Anyhow, beyond the waste it's also a shame because I strongly believe that there needs to be more thought and more effort devoted to thinking through (and doing something about) the relationship between Wikipedia and academia, which at present is frankly a broken relationship, with massive misunderstandings on both sides. The dialogue of the deaf that results would be amusing if it weren't also almost tragic. To take one example: academics fear Wikipedia because of the rampant plagiarism that (they think) creates it and that it in turn creates; yet here we have ongoing denunciation of student projects, for almost precisely the same reason. You'd have thought we'd have here the basis of a common conversation, common goals, and perhaps a shared set of tragedies. Instead we have mutual recriminations and allegations.

I think that the relationship between Wikipedia and the University (also, more broadly, the university and the intellectual commons) is a vital one, for a number of reasons. In reality, Wikipedia and the university are (or should be) in this together: they are both ultimately utopian enterprises, dedicated to the production and dissemination of knowledge to all, without commercial or ideological restraints. They are both, frankly, embattled, and their enemies are similar: rampant commercialization and privatization, for instance; or, in brief, an extraordinary attempt to enclose and profit from the digital commons.

This is why, beyond the basic obfuscation and evasions that it carries with it, I'm so against the management-speak that seems to come with the Education Project in its new incarnation. It is precisely this sort of shallow rationalization, short-termism, and unthinking belief in modish rhetoric that is killing the university and has the potential to kill Wikipedia. No wonder Wikipedians react so strongly against it! It is precisely the opposite of any solution to heal the rift between Wikipedia and the University. For it is the death-rattle of both.

Anyhow, all this may sound too high-falutin' or something. But there should be a forum for an honest and productive conversation between academics and Wikipedians (which is also a conversation among academics and Wikipedians, because of course there are plenty of people who are both, and in the end the divide is a false one). This should deal with pragmatic considerations such as plagiarism as well as the less-pragmatic ones about ethics. (By the way, there are also legalities at issue: strictly speaking when I tell my students to edit on Wikipedia I am also breaking the law of my home province; but that's another matter.)

We could ask why students, even good students, decide to plagiarize on Wikipedia, even those who wouldn't necessarily plagiarize elsewhere. (The other semester I had a grad class work on the Spanish Wikipedia and it turned out that two of the articles they wrote were massively plagiarized... No, I hadn't checked initially, because it honestly didn't occur to me that grad students would plagiarize in such a stupid manner. But they did.) We could think about ways to combat this. Incidentally, I find that Wikipedia assignments ultimately work well as a way to teach students not to plagiarize, just as they teach them about the perils of using poor sources. But it takes a while to get to that point; these are difficult lessons to learn, especially perhaps among this generation of students.

But more importantly we should also be thinking harder (and doing more) about the role that Wikipedia can and should play in the education sector, and vice versa. This should be a positive and productive relationship. I salute the WMF for realizing the potential of the two "sides" working together. This is why ultimately I support the Education Project. Indeed, I think it is vital. But this is also why (again) I think it's a huge shame that it has gone through such difficulties, and that it looks nowhere near resolving them anytime soon.

OK, I know: in the classic Wikipedia idiom, your response should probably be TLDNR. Shorter version: the Education Program (or something like it) is essential, but we can't let it be blighted by short-termism, blinkered vision, unthinking celebration, and shallow rhetoric. --jbmurray (talkcontribs) 06:57, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

Ach, and immediately after writing this, I move to the next page on my watchlist and have to remove some massive plagiarism from Sparknotes, of all places. Sigh. We do need to get together on this stuff. --jbmurray (talkcontribs) 07:01, 15 December 2012 (UTC)

First posted here.

Wiki philosophy[edit]

I try to edit in line with the Bold, Revert, Discuss cycle. And in response to other people's edits, I hold dear the maxim that "when someone makes an edit you consider biased or inaccurate, improve the edit if you can, rather than reverting it." A good faith edit, even when it itself is wrong, almost always indicates a problem with the original text, which should therefore be improved somehow.

This is therefore an attempt to keep to a zero revert rule. I admit that I'm not always successful, and that I take short cuts when I feel pressed for time.

Following a Request for adminship in May 2008, I am an administrator on the English Wikipedia. This means that if you have difficulties, I can help out or, more likely, point you in the right direction. If you don't like what I'm doing, I am open to recall in line with the default process, although in my case only three editors are required to trigger the recall.

You can see my administrative actions here: jbmurray (talk · contribs · blocks · protections · deletions · page moves · rights · RfA).

Murder, Madness, and Mayhem[edit]

In Spring 2008, I coordinated the educational project Murder, Madness, and Mayhem. In one semester we promoted three articles to Featured Article status, eight to Good Article status, and one to B-Class status. More details are available on our project page.

See also: "Was Introducing Wikipedia to the Classroom an Act of Madness Leading Only to Mayhem if not Murder?"

I have been working on a further essay, "Advice on Using Wikipedia in Colleges and Universities." Do tell me what you think.

North of the Río Grande[edit]

In Fall 2008, I coordinated the educational project North of the Río Grande. This was not quite the success of Murder, Madness, and Mayhem, but we managed to improve a number of articles about Latino and Chicano literature to Good Article status. More details are available on our project page.

Magical Realism Reconsidered[edit]

In Spring, 2010 I coordinated the educational project Magical Realism Reconsidered, which contributed a couple of good articles, but which also for the first time involved contributing to the Spanish Wikipedia.

Other projects[edit]

Over the past couple of years, my educational projects have concentrated on the Spanish Wikipedia, and have included contributions to articles about Latin American Cultural Studies and about the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.



IP addresses[edit]

I believe that this is probably me, as is this. There are no doubt other occasions when I have edited without being logged in, though I try to avoid the practice.