Why Wikipedia sucks badly

posted by Arkham on October 15th, 2008

Neutral point of view
Articles, including reader-facing templates, categories and portals, should be written from a Neutral Point of View.

Now, I don’t know how it is possible to have a neutral point of view, for me it’s like asking you to look without with your eyes. It could also explain why Wikipedia is so damn good in science-related topics, while it sucks pretty badly in anything that involves any kind of interpretation. Just look at the articles talking about paintings, books or lps, most of them barely have a slight hint about what these art pieces mean; they just tell you how high, long or big they are, who made ’em, when they were made and that’s it. I can agree that this kind of approach is safer, since we can not argue about those “facts”, but let’s think at what an encyclopedia should be (quoting from Wikipedia):

An encyclopedia is a comprehensive written compendium that contains information on either all branches of knowledge or a particular branch of knowledge.

So, it contains knowledge.
But knowledge about “Guernica” means to know how long and tall it is, but also what that painting could mean to us, since each interpretation of it add more “knowledge” to the object; when we look at it we will never be able to see it from an “objective/neutral” point of view again, and we will see it through all the opaque, distorting and multicolor walls of the previous interpretations.
This brings me to Gadamer and hermeneutics.

Hermeneutics may be described as the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts. It is more broadly used in contemporary philosophy to denote the study of theories and methods of the interpretation of all texts and systems of meaning. The concept of “text” is here extended beyond written documents to any number of objects subject to interpretation, such as experiences.

Gadamer’s most famous book, “Truth and Method”:

Even from its historical beginnings, the problem of hermeneutics goes beyond the limits of the concept of method as set by modern science.The understanding and the interpretation of texts is not merely a concern of science, but obviously belongs to human experience of the world in general. The hermeneutic phenomenon is basically not a problem of method at all. It is not concerned with a method of understanding by means of which texts are subjected to scientific investigation like all other objects of experience. It is not concerned primarily with amassing verified knowledge, such as would satisfy the methodological ideal of science, yet it too is concerned with knowledge and with truth. In understanding tradition not only are texts understood, but insights are acquired and truths known. But what kind of knowledge and what kind of truth?

What distinguished Gadamer from other authors like Schleiermacher and Dilthey is that the latter believed that correctly interpreting a text meant to recover the original intention of the author who wrote it. Gadamer argued instead that people have a ‘historically effected consciousness’ and that they are embedded in the particular history and culture that shaped them. Thus interpreting a text involves a “fusion of horizons” where the scholar finds the ways that the text’s history articulates with their own background.

Person A and person B exchange their ideas and opinions within a conversation. People come from different places have different opinions and this difference in background creates a set of prejudice and bias which provides various intrinsic values and meanings while the conversation are carrying on. By receiving the information from person A, a fusion of person B’s vision limitation are taking place and consequently, it broadens person B’s range of horizon. In other words, the totality of all that can be realized or thought about by a person at a given time in history and in a particular culture widens and enriches.

What can I say, Wikipedia FTL.

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