A Shirky Response: Wikipedia and “Ridiculously Easy Group Forming”



When we look at the ways in which societies from all over the world are able to connect, we almost instinctively begin to think of the tools that have enabled us to connect. The internet acts as our vessel to reach out to audiences we never imagined possible before. In relation to Shirky’s examples and analysis, we see that websites allow for average people outside the realms of a “Professional Organization” to rally together and form groups (including informal organizations of their own).


Concerning Wikipedia, the encyclopedia database is a collaborative effort from a variety of different people, thus different perspectives. Wikipedia acts as the tool for which researchers can gather and collect information. This collectiveness would not have been possible if not for Wikipedia as a website, sort of the way Flickr acts as a vessel for Photographers to collaboratively work, link, and connect together. Working towards one goal, in this way, allows for the audiences these sites are reaching out toward to gain some sense of digestibility. What I mean by that is with a countless number of people working toward a goal (as discussed in Chapter 1 of Shirky’s book: “Here Comes Everybody”), the audience they end up reaching begins to broaden itself, and more quality work and effort gets accomplished.


However, as Shirky points out in Chapter 2, not always do large groups working together reach their goals. In relation to Wikipedia, this may be true in that research may sometimes conflict, and information may not be accurate and so forth. It becomes a very difficult platform to keep track of, but at the same time, the workload is heavily decreased with group effort. I would assume that most of Wikipedia’s information comes from students and educators who have applied thorough research, and together they take “collective action” in a non-institutional way, without monetary profit or managerial push, but because they have merely decided to gather.


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