Mr. Yuri Cowan
ACS 205, Section 22
The Print Wikipedia: The destruction of the community
The German publisher, Bertelsmann AG, is printing a series of yearbooks containing the most searched entries of Wikipedia. But what are the negative implications of taking this information and making it a print book? There are many inherent problems associated withany attempt to take information from this website and put it into a book form. There are ethical concerns involved in publishing a free encyclopedia for profit and the destruction of the Wikipedia community. A print Wikipedia will always be out-of-date because its content is always changing. Plus it will be hard to think who will be purchase this book as the information is already free of charge,available on the internet. The print version is static making not as accessible as the website version. Therefore, the publication of the German print version of Wikipedia will cause negative outcomes that will destroy the social group formed within the online Wikipedia.
The publisher, Bertelsmann, is showing unethical behaviour when publishing the print-version of Wikipedia. The online newswebsite, www.CNN.com states that “To some extent. It’s marketing for Bertelsmann. They are using free content, free knowledge. Legally, they don’t have to pay anything for the content.” It will not be ethical for the publisher to charge for information which is available for free on the Internet and, not give any of the profits made to its unlimited contributors. Wikipedia is built by the contributionof many users who want to share their knowledge with others, why should someone take advantage of that knowledge without giving any credit to its users? The question therefore is whether it is ethical to freeload off the Internet and thereby make a substantial profit from other people’s research. www.CNN.com also states that, “[C]opies of the 992 page book--available only in German--will retail$31.90.” This is a substantial price for something that is freely available on the Internet. This process of taking information from Wikipedia to make a profit can be legal but unethical.
The reason why Wikipedia was formed will be destroyed when the print-version comes to existence. Wikipedia “was constructed,...,by strangers who disagreed about all kinds of things but who were drawn to a shared,not-for-profit purpose” (Baker). Baker also suggests that “Wikipedia flourished partly because it was a shrine to altruism- a place for shy, learned people to deposit their trawls.” If this is the purpose of Wikipedia, of sharing information for a non-for-profit purpose, then its purpose will be destroyed when the print volume of Wikipedia gets publish. Bertelsmann is just taking advantage of thesituation without even considering why the website was originally built, and the effect that will cause in its users or contributors. Brown and Duguid argue that “Seeing documents as the means to make and maintain social groups, not just the means to deliver information, makes it easier to understand the utility and success of new forms of document.” The community of users that have never met butwho share information with one another will be destroyed because Bertlesman is only thinking about money. They would feel reluctant to share information with others because someone else is using their information to make a profit. [Bertelsman] needs to see the way documents have served not simply to write, but also to underwrite social interactions, not simply to communicate, but also tocoordinate social practices”(Brown and Duguid). The sharing of information by users will decrease and the community that was built will disappear, because it was not all about information, it was about the community within the website.
Publishing Wikipedia will destroy the original intent and enjoyment of the website. According to Baker, what made Wikipedia fun and addictive was the editing of all...
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