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Markkula Center for Applied Ethics

The World that Wikipedia Made

The Ethics and Values of Public Knowledge

A panel discussion May 15, 2008, featuring:

Carl Hewitt, emeritus, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT
Pedro Hernández-Ramos, associate director, Center for Science, Technology, and Society.

Listen to the panel.

Wikipedia is ubiquitous on the Web. A search for any obscure information is likely to wind up in a link to one of its entries (try 'sardines' or 'Transylvania' on Google for example). It is an incredible boon: a huge information repository, which has been
generated in a few short years. But Wikipedia is not an encyclopedia in the traditional sense; editors of articles are not always experts (even for highly technical articles), and the project's consensus editing model has its detractors. Entries on contested issues, such as the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, have been the site of protracted editing wars between opponents.

This panel will explore what works and what doesn't in the Wikipedia editing model from the angles of ethics, expertise, education, and the law. Come with questions and opinions: the discussion will be lively. The program is free and open to the public

Carl Hewitt

Carl Hewitt is Emeritus in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). He is known for his design of Planner, his work on concurrency (the Actor model), the Scientific Community Metaphor, and, most recently, on strongly paraconsistent logic.

Initially, Hewitt was excited about Wikipedia, but experience trying to write for the site has led him to believe that it is unsuited for such academic articles because of problems with "censorship by Wikipedia Administrators, lack of accountability, dogmatism, intolerance,and disrespect for expertise."

Pedro Hernández-Ramos, moderator

Hernández-Ramos has a joint appointment at the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, where he is associate director, and the Department of Education, where he is an associate professor and director of the MA emphasis on "Teaching & Learning with Technology." Before joining the faculty at SCU in 2001, he held positions in education and education marketing at Apple Computer, Acer America, and Cisco Systems, and served as business development manager for the IMS Global Learning Consortium.

"The World that Wikipedia Made" is co-sponsored by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, the Center for Science, Technology, and Society, and the High Tech Law Institute. It is the ninth event in an ongoing series about technology, ethics, and the law.


May 15, 2008