Young Wikipedia:

Misunderstandings and Representations of Disadvantaged Youth

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Have you ever wondered how Wikipedia is able to ‘publish’ their information without having any biases? I have, and I found out that there are almost always going to be bias and unreliable sources regarding learning disabilities on Wikipedia. Wikipedia seems to be the latest controversy in regards to the validity and reliability of such creation process. Consequently, there has been a growing concern for our future generations involving youth with disabilities. As Wikipedia is expanding its definitions, the editors must be very careful when publishing the related resources; keeping in mind that the majority and significant minority of the population’s views are covered. They also need to be mindful of politically correct terms, photos and hyperlinks that are being added to portray the subjected area (in my case study – learning disabled individuals).

In Royal & Kapila (2009) article, they discuss that anyone can edit and change information on Wikipedia as well as only cover certain (and current) topics. This being so, the sources used throughout Wikipedia, are only the views of those who decide to contribute and thus being heard; making the reliability of the site at a disadvantage over the majority of the population’s beliefs. As Richard Jensen (2012) proclaims in his article, Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812, “Teachers are concerned with who reads Wikipedia and how they use the information they acquire there” (P. 1166). Youth, nowadays, are resorting to sites that are simpler and more assessable (like Wikipedia); this raises tensions and miscommunications between the immature child and their parental figure who is trying to support their child accordingly. These negative habits can also hinder our personable relationships and sense of self by teaching new behaviors like being able to edit, delete or retouch most information online (Turkle, 2012). Not only are we trying to improve our children’s’ strengths and weaknesses but also supporting parents whom are uneducated on ways to support the individual in need. We are encouraging the teachers to further support society at large by acquiring more education skills and tools necessary.

As generations of youth are changing, they are becoming increasingly reliant on internet and media to portray appropriate ways to act. In today’s generation, youth’s lives are becoming more complicated and exposed with the increase of cyber bullying. As mature and supportive users, we have a main concern regarding how the articles on learning disabled children represent a range of children whom should not necessarily be categorized or defined as such. This information is also culturally skewed; for example, in the ‘historical terminology’ section of Wikipedia’s definition: individuals with a ‘mental retardation’ are now known as having a developmental disability in North America, and an intellectual disability in other parts of the world. Accordingly, many would view a developmental disability quite different than a mental retardation; as individuals whom are considered as having developmental disabilities are completely capable of learning as long as they are assisted.

Wikipedia’s editing process also lacks appropriate measurements that are classified on an IQ scale. Not only does this classification scale only further segregate these individuals but also groups every learning disability in the same category. There is not any IQ-based classification for developmental disabilities because it is virtually impossible and politically incorrect to compare two disabilities. I also noticed a comment concerning pictures of individuals being uploaded and active contributors rebutted the postings because the pictures portray a stereotyped image of an individual with a disability. For example, a person with Down Syndrome has distinctive attributes; however, an individual with autism might not have any physical defects to generalize such characteristics. Another complaint I noticed in the discussion part of Wikipedia, was in regards to someone adding information (and a hyperlink) to their organization in order to promote their company. This could potentially motivate other individuals to advertise their corporations that relate to such topics.

In contrast, Van Dijk & Nieborg (2009) discuss the importance of Wikipedia in regards to it being a co-created process that allows a variety of individuals to participate in their definitions. Wikipedia is very user friendly, easy to search through and is consistently monitored by thousands of editors; where majority of the information is up to date, and is presented in the most acceptable terms worldwide. I am not nearly suggesting that we stop using Wikipedia; however, we need to critically analyze the information provided by the creators and editors as well as be able to teach our children how to examine the information appropriately. There are obvious flaws and inaccuracies throughout many articles on Wikipedia but the notion of ‘mass collaboration’ and ‘communal creativity’ is contributing towards democratic rights and is defining the way which people are working and living in the future (Van Dijk & Nieborg, 2009).

My intent is to raise awareness of youth with learning disabilities and to promote more education for any and all who struggle with or know someone who is struggling with a learning disability. Not only do we need more research on these children and how to further guide them, but also new technological support that can reduce some minor complications. Although, it would be very complicated to eliminate these labeling concerns and physical deficits, it would be even more difficult to contribute financially, considering the stigmas that are attached. Perhaps raising awareness and gaining enough status for people who could benefit from more education and support is the first step to success.

 

References:

Jensen, R. (2012). Military History on the Electronic Frontier: Wikipedia Fights the War of 1812. Journal of Military History. 76, 1. pp 1165-1182

Royal, C. & Kapila, D. (2009). What’s on Wikipedia, and What’s Not . . . ?: Assessing Completeness of Information. Social Science Computer Review. 27, 1. pp 138-148.

Turkle, S. (2012). The Flight From Conversation. New York Times Sunday Review. April 21, 2012. Received from: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/opinion/sunday/the-flight-from-conversation.html?pagewanted=all

Van Dijk, J. & Nieborg, D. (2009). Wikinomics and its discontents: a critical analysis of Web 2.0 business manifestos. New Media & Society. 11, 5. pp 855-874.

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