Collective Intelligence and Wikipedia

As a worker at a brewery, I am constantly learning new things about beer. One thing that is almost undeniable in the current beer world is the popularity of the India Pale Ale. Because of the informal standards and information gathering revolving around beer, many different people have many different things to say about styles of beer and the differences between them. These informalities causing dissention in the beer world can even be made apparent when looking at the Wikipedia page for India Pale Ale.

Image In an article written by Henry Jenkins entitled “Confessions of an Aca-Fan,” Wikipedia is viewed critically mostly because of the discord it has created in the world of academia. Mr. Jenkins however, speaks with a more hopeful tone when speaking about the reliability of Wikipedia. He believes that, instead of “outlawing” the use of Wikipedia for students in classrooms, teachers should demonstrate the ability to critically assess where the information is coming from to their students (Jenkins). This goes for sites like Wikipedia as well as more traditional forms of research; it is extremely important to understand where your data is coming from (Jenkins). He brings up the idea of collective intelligence, or the concept of a group pooling ideas and information for a common goal, and in my opinion, I agree that Wikipedia is a form of successful collective intelligence. Henry Jenkins phrased it eloquently, stating that Wikipedia should be viewed more a work in progress, not a finished product (Jenkins).


Fortunately, Wikipedia has tools that the average user can utilize in order to scrutinize when and from whom certain page’s information is being transmitted. The Wikipedia page for India Pale Ale even has statistics for any revisions made in the page’s history, beginning with the page’s inception. These tools are extremely useful when critically inspect the page’s information sources. As noted by the screenshot, the Wikipedia page for India Pale Ale has an average time of 3.87 days between edits, meaning that information is constantly being updated to the page. It also states that only about 40% of the page’s edits are made by the top 10% most active users on the page, meaning that new people are constantly making additions to the page. Another interesting statistic is the amount of major and minor edits made to the page. It declares that 77.6% of the edits made to the page are major edits implying that the information contained on the page is constantly being altered in substantial amounts because of an uncertainty of information. This page just displays the inner workings of one page on Wikipedia; every page is completely different, making it almost too easy to see that Wikipedia is clearly the crux of some form of collective intelligence of the modern period.

As someone who has a deep interest and informed position on styles of beer, the Wikipedia page seems to be quite accurate: however, if I were in need of precise India Pale Ale data, I would most likely not use the Wikipedia page. This does not mean I do not agree with Mr. Jenkins and his article, I believe he made an extremely important point. Without critically questioning your data and where it comes from you are just blindly following information.


Works Cited

Jenkins, Henry. “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About the New Media Literacies (Part Two)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan. 26 June 2007 Web. 13 Feb. 2014.

Jenkins, Henry. “What Wikipedia Can Teach Us About the New Media Literacies (Part One)” Confessions of an Aca-Fan., 26 June 2007. Web. 13 Feb. 2014.

India Pale Ale. (2014, February 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:41, February 17, 2014, from