Streams, Gardens, and Roots in Wikipedia

This week in Digital Studies, we studied Wikipedia. I now have sufficient ammunition for rebuttal of parent and professor alike should they challenge the credibility of this invaluable resource, and it’s pretty empowering. Not to mention that I’ve been allowed to make a copy of the keys to the kingdom, that I can now create and edit Wikpedia pages myself. I’ve been empowered to give back to the community I have depended on for so many years, to push back against some of the problems facing this platform, under-representation being chief among them.

One of the articles we read to prepare us for this undertaking was The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral by Mike Caulfield. Much like when I first took psychology and political science, within a few paragraphs I thought to myself “Oh, there’s a word for that.” I kept thinking how these concepts were far from foreign, and yet I had never studied them, never had the words or the structure to do further research. I was inspired by this article, and look forward to curating Gardens and consciously floating down Streams.

Caulfield gave me the words to describe something I’d been doing artlessly since I first found Wikipedia and fell in love with research. While doing genealogical research  as a favor for family, I’d gotten a mite involved (read as hopelessly obsessed) with the story of someone we might be related to- William Waller, the purported owner of Kunta Kinte, the slave made famous by Alex Haley and the TV show “Roots”. People have been trying to trace the connections between Kinte and the Wallers since the book first came out, and yet concrete evidence was lacking. As I started looking through the research, I was categorizing it in folders in my favorites, the way I do with the myriad of topics that momentarily entrance me. Reading though Caulfield’s article, I realized that it was in many ways my own rudimentary garden. I’d been mapping sources and ideas in folders that I could then walk back through the next time I was on break from school or needed a distraction, ordered in topics and linked to relative concepts, not ordered by date last viewed. This method led me to discover not only new information that I think may prove the final links between my family, the Wallers, and Kinte, but also to a new source. Turns out all this time a physics professor at UMW has been researching the same thing. This new method of organizing information online has immeasurable potential.

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