Whether you like it or not, Wikipedia matters. According to Web information company Alexa, Wikipedia is currently the eighth most popular website in the United States--six spots ahead of mega-retail destination Amazon and 21 spots ahead of the New York Times--and the ninth most popular website in the world. And that's not a bad thing, says University of Texas Assistant Professor of Emerging Media and Communications David Parry. "Not only does Wikipedia contain the 'hard science,' but it also records and contributes to the politicization and dissemination of scientific research and communication," writes Parry in a recent piece for Science Progress titled "Wikipedia and the New Curriculum."
"No longer is an encyclopedia a static collection of facts and figures (although some of its features might be relatively so); it is an organic entity," writes Parry. But whose actions contribute to the organic nature of Wikipedia? A broad cross-section of humanity? Not exactly, says Slate's Chris Wilson. In a piece titled "The Wisdom of the Chaperones," he writes, "[Even] though people are catching up to the idea that Wikipedia is a force for good, there are still huge misconceptions about what makes [it] tick. While Wikipedia does show the creative potential of online communities, it's a mistake to assume the site owes its success to the wisdom of the online crowd. Social-media sites like Wikipedia...are celebrated as shining examples of Web democracy, places built by millions of Web users who all act as writers, editors, and voters. In reality, a small number of people are running the show. According to researchers in Palo Alto, one percent of Wikipedia users are responsible for about half of the site's edits."