Submissions/A Reflection on Dismantling Legacy Thinking in the WikiWorld

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

After careful consideration, the Programme Committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2014 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no. 1006

A Reflection on Dismantling Legacy Thinking in the WikiWorld

Presentation by Tom Rambo

Username: Tbrambo

Country of origin: Ireland


The proposed presentation would focus on three main topics:

    1.    An explanation of what "Legacy Thinking” is. 
    2.    An argument for why it is a detrimental force.
    3.    A theory on how we can move beyond legacy thinking in the WikiWorld.

This presentation is concerned with the culture that is being perpetuated in wiki. Although the majority of the contributions seem to be neutral in language and attitude, sometimes the residue of old, inherited thought patterns, that are arguably ignorant by nature, can be found slouching around the wiki landscape. The futurist author David Houle describes:

    “Your mentor taught you something in the 1990s, your father told you about reality, 
     you read a great business book in the 1980s and then these "truths" became locked 
     down in your mind and therefore strongly shaped your views on most subjects. It is as 
     though you are seeing the future through windows of a house that was built in the past”.[1]

A Reflection on Dismantling Legacy Thinking in the WikiWorld would be a journey through Wikipedia, sourcing examples from the live pages, currently being presented to the world. For instance, as of the time of this writing, Pocahontas, on her Wikipedia page, is describe as a “Virginia Indian”. I will present the argument for why this description is perpetuating historical ignorance. This presentation is not, as you might be thinking, just an argument for more political correctness in wiki. It is a plea for us to stop and consider our basic assumptions, even our most rudimentary language. Often we find, when reflected upon, that much of our language comes from a far more simplistic, less democratic, more ignorant time in human history. People said and did things because they simply did not know any better, but in the year 2014, we know better. We might not have all of the problems of the world solved yet, but our understanding of life, and each other, has broadened to perviously unimagined levels.

The technology of the past decade has born magnificent tools for augmenting the human experience, one of the most powerful being the wiki we are conceded with here. I propose, however, that we have a responsibility to not only record human knowledge, but to do so in a way that rejects past wrongs. Words, descriptions, colloquialisms, slang… must be examined when being used in description. We must not simply regurgitate language from the past, just because that’s what a person or thing has always been known to us as. When we reexamine, for example, why the native people living in North America were described by Europeans as “Indians”, we find it is because they were ignorant, therefore, there should be no place within the wiki to perpetuate that original lack of knowledge. Yet there it sits, on Pocahontas’ wiki page, in the year 2014, even after all that we have learned between that time and now.

In summary, this presentation is a call for us to question our basic assumptions. I believe this will lead us into a much more truthful, much more enriching wiki. The language that we use to describe things with, is extraordinarily important. One word can change the nature and attitude of an entire wiki article. Let’s not just remain lazy in our legacy thought patterns, but rather, take a step up on the ladder towards offering better information for a better world.


WikiCulture & Community

Length of session

20 Minutes

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  1. [1] Media Biz Bloggers retrieved January 2nd, 2014

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  1. I have a Native American studies degree, identify as a revisionist historian, and worked closely in the "land" of Pocahontas and the Pamunkey. I'm intrigued! SarahStierch (talk) 19:22, 7 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Slowking4 (talk) 22:27, 30 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  3. --અમીર એ. અહરોનિ 17:11, 13 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]


"When we reexamine, for example, why the native people living in North America were described by Europeans as “Indians”, we find it is because they were ignorant, therefore, there should be no place within the wiki to perpetuate that original lack of knowledge"

Well, I think that Wikipedia should document the lack of knowledge we had before. If humans thought that the earth was flat, then we need the relevant articles to discuss that.

We use the term "barbaric" because of barbarians and "lesbian" because of the Lesbos. "Bad" ethymology shouldn't be a reason to change terms.

Moreover, I think that Wikipedia shouldn't teach what is right. It should document knowledge, science and history, to judge them. --NaBUru38 23:29, 25 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Etymology will evolve; persisting in the phrasing of the 19th century is archaic. historiography belongs in the historiography section, not the lede. documentation is the history of the journalist; we can have an historical philosophy which guides our scholarship. Slowking4 (talk) 23:03, 30 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]