谁是专家:维基百科和“专家”定义的转变

《大西洋》月刊网站近期刊登标题为《维基百科和“专家”定义的转变》一文,原文和简短摘要:
专家已死!专家万岁!
  • 我们如何判断一个人是否知道我在说什么?我们如何判断某人的可信度?以前我们依赖的线索包括:头衔、学位、发布的文章、发表的演讲——这些被称之为“专业知识”的东西。我们更加相信这些专家的金言玉语。
  • 但以维基百科为代表的“众包”正在改变着一些传统的概念,例如“权威”、“作者”甚至是“知识”。维基百科中的很多专业知识是由各行各业的专家们填写进去的,因此,传统意义上的专家概念仍然是有意义的。
  • 最近斯坦福大学和雅虎凯发电游院的凯发电游者们针对维基百科编辑人员的一项凯发电游发现:我们称何种人为专家的概念正在变化。凯发电游者认为,直觉上来说某些人对某些话题的兴趣显著高于普通人,这些人就可称之为专家。
  • 在他们看来,在维基百科的世界里,专家的概念已经从“知道什么的人”转变成为了“对什么特别感兴趣的人”。
原文题目:Wikipedia and the Shifting Definition of 'Expert' How do we judge whether a person knows what he or she is talking about? How do we gauge someone's credibility?  At least in part, we rely on a set of cues -- titles, university degrees, papers published, lectures given -- that have long been bound up in the concept of "expertise". If a person is deemed an expert, we are more credulous of their claims, and their words carry more weight. But expertise is a fraught commodity -- lashed inextricably to the commodities of privilege and power. Does an expert on poverty know more than someone who is poor? Are women given expert status on issues relating to women, but not others? Does expertise itself invest people with perverse incentives to maintain the status quo? How we ascribe expertise shapes whose voices and ideas have purchase in our discourse -- whose books get published, whose writing fill op-ed column inches, who sits at what tables.
Part of the beauty of Wikipedia is the hope that through its openness and its anonymity it could democratize the process of how knowledge gets built and organized. Last year 
The Awl published an essay "Wikipedia and the Death of the Expert," in which Maria Bustillos argued, "Wikipedia, along with other crowd-sourced resources, is wreaking a certain amount of McLuhanesque havoc on conventional notions of 'authority,' 'authorship,' and even 'knowledge.' " Online, the crowd was knocking the individual off its throne as the arbiter of information. As Bustillos quoted Clay Shirky, "On Wikipedia 'the author' is distributed, and this fact is indigestible to current models of thinking."

But, of course, this kind of collaboration doesn't itself imply the absence of expertise. Experts can, after all, collaborate together. And Wikipedia certainly benefits from academics with specialized knowledge developing and patrolling articles they care about. (This is particularly true when measured in terms of Wikipedia's breadth -- it's hard to imagine many of the extremely technical scientific articles existing at all without the input of scientists who made it their business to fill out the encyclopedia's periphery.)

So "experts" in the traditional sense (e.g. academic pedigrees) do still matter in this collaborative environment. But a new study from researchers at Stanford University and Yahoo Research points to a complementary phenomenon: The definition of what makes someone an expert is changing. They search for expertise in Wikipedia's pages, and they find it, but what they're looking for -- what they call expertise -- uses different signals to project itself. Expertise, to these researchers, isn't who a writer is but what a writer knows, as measured by what they read online.

They write (pdf):
"We define an editor e's interest in a Wikipedia article a as the mean similarity between e's search queries and a ... Then we define e's expertise in a as the ratio of e's interest in a to the average editor's interest in a.Intuitively, someone is an expert in a topic if their interest is significantly above average." (bold added)
This may be "intuitive" to those immersed in Wikipedia's pages, structure, and data, but it's a new and radically distilled understanding of expertise: An expert is someone who knows something.

By this measure they do find Wikipedia's editors to be an expert bunch, with edits being made by people who have read more online in related fields than the average editor (their data comes from people who have allowed for tracking in Yahoo's toolbar). Their data also showed that people with greater "expertise" make the more significant Wikipedia edits -- "a good sign" they say, as "we would hope [such edits] would come from real experts." (bold again added)


The rest of their study fills out the picture of Wikipedia's editors a bit, based on browsing history. Editors "search more, read more news, play more games, and, perhaps surprisingly, are more immersed in pop culture," spending more time on sites such as YouTube. They also frequent porn and social-networking sites less frequently than the average web user, as a percent of places they visit. They visit three times as many web pages than Wikipedia readers who are not editors, and nine times as many as those who don't read Wikipedia at all. Overall, the authors write, Wikipedia's editors are "more sophisticated than usual Web users."

Wikipedia, despite its faults, is a special place, one where this new definition of "expert" is conceivable and can exist alongside more traditional notions. This seems less the case outside of Wikipedia's sprawling lands, where expertise is as fraught as ever, and web clicks alone don't buy you much in the way of respect.

Abstract of the Paper:Who edits Wikipedia? We attempt to shed light on this question by using aggregated log data from Yahoo!’s browser toolbar in order to analyze Wikipedians’ editing behavior in the context of their online lives beyond Wikipedia. We broadly characterize editors by investigating how their online behavior differs from that of other users; e.g., we find that Wikipedia editors search more, read more news, play more games, and, perhaps surprisingly, are more immersed in pop culture. Then we inspect how editors’ general interests relate to the articles to which they contribute; e.g., we confirm the intuition that editors show more expertise in their active domains than average users. Our results are relevant as they illuminate novel aspects of what has become many Web users’ prevalent source of information and can help in recruiting new editors.
Read more from the Atlantic
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