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User:Blarcrean

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The Venerable Bede translates John 1902.jpg Blarcrean is interested in their local history.


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This user has tried in a small way to broaden or improve information available online through Wikipedia.

No source of information should be accepted uncritically.

A professional obligation[edit]

In a relevant critique of Wikipedian history-making Professor Roy Rosenzweig took this enterprise to task not because it disregards the facts (in its coverage of US history it is found to be “surprisingly accurate in reporting names, dates, and events”), but because it elevates facts “above everything else and spends too much time and energy (in the manner of many collectors) on organizing those facts into categories and lists.” [1]

This is of course partly the nature of encyclopedias – they ‘give you the topline’ and are ‘the Reader's Digest of deep knowledge,’ writes Rosenzweig, who headed History and New Media at George Mason University. “Fifty years ago the family encyclopedia provided this ‘rough and ready primer on some name or idea’; now that role is being played by the Internet and increasingly by Wikipedia.”

It is in relation to this that Rosenzweig wonders whether professional historians ought to join popular history makers on this project. “My own tentative answer,” he writes, “is yes.” “If Wikipedia is becoming the family encyclopedia for the twenty-first century, historians probably have a professional obligation to make it as good as possible. … [if every historian] devoted just one day to improving the entries in her or his areas of expertise, it would not only significantly raise the quality of Wikipedia, it would also enhance popular historical literacy.”

He argues further that “If historians believe that what is available free on the Web is low quality, then we have a responsibility to make better information sources available online. … Shouldn't professional historians join in the massive democratization of access to knowledge reflected by Wikipedia and the Web in general?”

At the same time, he adds – and because students do and will use Wikipedia articles as sources – one has constantly to promote awareness of “the limitations of all information sources, including Wikipedia,” and emphasize “the skills of critical analysis of primary and secondary sources.”

Being interested in a geographic region that is relatively under- and/or poorly represented in Wikipedia and indeed in any generally available secondary sources, this user - who is not an historian, but works in a related discipline - is motivated to make contributions from time to time in order to help improve this situation. There is a laudable emphasis being given to local history in the new school curricula which makes this project even more urgent, since this good intention is not being backed-up quickly enough with reliable textbooks or other resources. For those students with Internet access, Wikipedia may be one of the few sources of information available at all. Rosenzweig has issued a challenge that surely ought to be taken up.

Rosenzweig refers to places where censorship of textbooks and other historical resources is common: in such situations “the fact that Wikipedia's freedom means both ‘free beer’ and ‘free speech’ has profound implications because it allows the circulation of alternative historical voices and narratives.” Where this user resides this is not as much of an issue as it is in other places[2] – or is it?[3][4][5][6] The principle is surely important. On the matter of alternative perspectives, Milan Kundera’s oft-quoted remark is relevant, that we live amid a “din of easy, quick answers that come faster than the question and block it off.” He was writing about the spirit of the novel – which, as he says, is the spirit of complexity, where “Things are not as simple as you think.” He might as well have been writing about historical research or scientific endeavour, which is propelled onwards, not by ready-made ideas and stereotypes, but by doubt and questioning. Research is constantly yielding new insights, new twists to the tale, still further refracted by current contexts and points of view. To over-simplify diminishes the necessary texture. Indeed, as Merleau-Ponty said, “ambiguity is the essence of human existence and everything we live and think always has several meanings.”[7] The trick for Wikipedians is to find ways to convey something of the complexity and depth, providing pointers for deeper quests.

Our concerns should go beyond mere collecting and organizing of facts into categories and lists!

Many of this user’s own contributions are fragments and work in progress, personal and professional, and hopefully other Wikipedians will be joining both in improving the quality and in adding to the textures.

Blarcrean lives in the Northern Cape, South Africa

Articles created[edit]

Places[edit]

Rivers

Towns, settlements, regions

Heritage Sites[edit]

Archaeological sites

Buildings

Landscapes

Passes

People[edit]

People of Kimberley

Activists and Political figures

Anthropologists

Artists

Art Collectors

Clergy

Composers & Musicians

Educationists

Explorers

"First" People

Historians

Medical profession

Museologists

Writers

Institutions[edit]

Academic

Archaeological

Churches & Religious

Colonial

Museums

Musical

Newspapers

Schools



Contributions/edits[edit]

Inter alia to the following entries:

Blarcrean's edit count

Articles to be written: Northern Cape[edit]

Countries Visited[edit]

Russia France Mexico UK England Cornwall Wessex Lesotho Botswana Namibia Norway Germany Finnmark County Austria Vienna Croatia Zagreb Slovenia Slovakia Bratislava Czech Republic Prague UAE

References[edit]

  1. ^ Can history be open source? Wikipedia and the future of the past
  2. ^ But see ANC ramming through Secrecy Bill, Cosatu nails info bill, ANC's information bill is an insult to our Constitution, Reject Info Bill - Asmal, Info Bill - Stop, rewind, experts say, ANC takes U-turn on Info Bill - but still no protection for journalists, whistleblowers, Contested S.African info bill nears finalisation by Wendell Roelf, Constitutional Court challenge expected,Prof Jane Duncan on “The prevention of scholarship bill”
  3. ^ Black day for press freedom
  4. ^ Vinayak Bhardwaj, advocacy co-ordinator at the Mail and Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane) remarks chillingly in relation to the Nkandla disclosures: "The painstaking attempts by journalists, activist organisations and chapter nine institutions to unearth the details of the Nkandla story have revealed the power of South Africa's laws in counteracting the state's secrecy reflex. Hanging over these attempts, however, is the ever-present threat of the 'secrecy Bill' currently awaiting the president's [Zuma's] signature before becoming law. Among its many pernicious provisions, the Bill would allow the state to determine the rules for access to classified information for chapter nine institutions, including the public protector. What was previously withheld by foot-dragging would then be impenetrably fortified by draconian legislation." Mail and Guardian March 20 to 27 2014 page 7.
  5. ^ Copyright Bill-latest in a litany of laws of increasing oppression
  6. ^ Approach to High Court over SAA gag order This 30 Nov 2015 Rand Daily Mail article cites a succinct statement from a 2011 Constitutional Court judgment by former chief justice Sandile Ngcobo: "The constitutional guarantee of the right of access to information held by the state gives effect to accountability, responsiveness and openness as founding values of our constitutional democracy. It is impossible to hold accountable a government that operates in secrecy. In a democratic society such as our own, the effective exercise of the right to vote also depends on the right of access to information. For without access to information, the ability of citizens to make responsible political decisions and participate meaningfully in public life is undermined."
  7. ^ Cited in Michael Cope, 2005, Intricacy, p 260