The Free Encyclopedia:
Wikipedia and Jacques Rancière’s philosophy of radical equality
Beyond its importance as a major Internet destination and vast store of knowledge, Wikipedia exhibits a further cultural and symbolic importance. We use Rancière’s political philosophy, specifically his idea that “equality is a presupposition, an initial axiom―or it is nothing,” to examine the idea of a “free encyclopedia”. From this point of view, a “free license” that enables sharing/remixing, such as the Gnu Free Documentation License (GFDL) or Creative Commons License, is not sufficient. The software and editors must recognize and practice freedom in order to grasp it. Freedom and efficiency are not necessarily compatible. Effort to improve the quality and scope of Wikipedia are admirable, but shouldn’t be pursued at the expense of Wikipedia’s symbolic power as a free encyclopedia.
Wikimania is the annual international conference of Wikimedia: the parent group the operates Wikipedia and several other wiki projects. It consists of an academic track with peer-reviewed scholarly presentations and a casual track with practical and technical sessions. I presented this paper at the academic track of Wikimania 2009, in Buenos Aires.