ENGL428J - Seminar in Language and Literature; Wikipedia: Experts and Amateurs
In January 2001, Wikipedia went online with the tag line “the encyclopedia anyone can edit.” Since then it has faced harsh criticism, inspired dire warnings, and nevertheless become the only non-profit site in the 10 most visited websites in the world. Now less than twenty years later, Wikipedia is widely used as a source of answers and an arbiter of truth in an age of misinformation, providing or informing content for Google info boxes, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri queries, and Facebook and YouTube fact checking. Given the prominent role Wikipedia finds itself in, this course asks what does it mean to be an expert or an amateur and who decides? Over the semester, we will study Wikipedia from three perspectives: from a rhetorical approach analyzing an encyclopedia, from a cultural studies approach examining wiki culture, and from a public intellectual approach trying our hands as Wikipedia editors collaboratively writing articles. In each unit, we will consider questions of what counts as knowledge, what it means to be an expert, and how thinking about these issues changes across contexts and time periods. Course workload includes regular readings and discussion, a short essay, a research paper, significant contributions to one or more Wikipedia articles, and a final exam.

Prerequisites: Junior Standing. For ENGLISH majors only. Permission of Honors Director. To learn more about the English Honors Program click here