BERKELEY (KPIX 5) – UC Berkeley has hired on a 22-year-old recent graduate to help transition students to the new age of researching.
Kevin Gorman will advise students and professors on the best practices for editing and article on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia that gets 500 million monthly visitors, many of whom are doing the editing and updating of the website.
Cal is the first major American university to hire a person wrangle Wikipedia.
“I think increasingly, academia – along with other parts of the cultural sector – are realizing that Wikipedia is too big and too widely used to ignore,” said Gorman. “It’s very common now for undergraduates to write an entire term paper without ever having stepped foot in a physical library,” said Gorman.
But Gorman’s job won’t be getting student to read Wikipedia articles but rather creating them.
“The 18th century imagined that they could produce a compilation of all human knowledge. That was what the Encyclopedia,” said UC Berkeley Professor of History Thomas Laqueur. “Now we have an infinitely large, essentially encyclopedia that really does cover most of human knowledge, in most languages, and it’s stunning.”
The future at Cal could be sending in links to Wikipedia articles rather than handing over a traditional term paper. Doing that could well involve some good old fashioned academic research, maybe even going to a library.
“It forces them to go to those primary sources themselves, and I think that’s really where good research begins,” said Cal Junior Rachel Mendelson.
And, according to Gorman, there is another benefit.
“They realize that, instead of writing for an audience of two – themselves and whoever grades their paper, they’re writing for an audience of perhaps 200 or 200,000,” said Gorman.