Encyclopedias and Wikipedias

booksLast week I was at a gathering for the purpose of talking through issues related to “Doing Hermeneutics in a Postmodern Culture”. There were about a dozen of us there. Most from the Maritimes, one from Ontario, a couple from the U.K. via British Columbia, one from the U.S. and the facilitator/lecturer was from South Africa.

As we talked through the issues it occurred to me that one of the struggles in the Church in the Western world is that we basically have two separate sub-cultures worshipping together in most churches: the Encyclopedias and the Wikipedias. The Encyclopedias are the folks most affected by modernity. For them, it’s about protecting the text, keeping it safe on the reserve shelf so it’s there for everyone to get what they need from it when they need it. The text is set, you don’t change it, you just read it and gather the info you need for your speech, report, exam or general interest. Simply put, information does not change. If it was true yesterday, it is true now and it will be true tomorrow.

The Wikipedias are the folks most affected by post modernity. For them, the text was made for man, not man for the text. They understand truth to be somewhat fluid and best arrived at by community rather than an individual or even a small group of contributors or editors. Everyone gets to join in on the wiki and they feel comfortable in trusting the community for any course correction necessary to keep the integrity of the text. They believe that what was true in 1960 is not necessarily true today. Boundaries change, discoveries are made, new information about old events requires quick change if the text is to be maintained with integrity.

The Wikis ask, “Is that true?” and the Encyclos say, “Of course, it’s right there in the text.” The Wikis say, “The neutrality of this article is disputed. Please see the discussion on the talk page. Please do not remove this message until the dispute is resolved.”


About brianmpei

Stumbling towards what comes next.
This entry was posted in Church, God, language, religion, writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Encyclopedias and Wikipedias

  1. I kept thinking about how the university profs I know all hate Wiki. Their is a thoroughly modern enterprise, but they also rightly identify Wiki as a relativistic (ie. untrustworthy) platform. I often tell folks Wiki is a great place to start a journey – but you have to be prepared to do your own leg work. So there are analogies that continue to work in contrasting Wiki to traditional encyclopedias.

    I’ll have to add you to my blogroll so I can read your followup.

  2. brianmpei says:

    That’s cool Frank! Now get that paper finished so we can all know where to go from here!

  3. Michelle says:

    Interesting analogy! I like it.

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