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How Wikipedia Works by Ben Yates, Charles Matthews, Phoebe Ayers

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Chapter 2. The World Gets a Free Encyclopedia

The hopeful dreams from the early days of Wikipedia have become reality. There is a free, online encyclopedia, and in Chapter 1, you reviewed its content. But what led to Wikipedia’s creation, and what is the philosophy behind the site?

In Serendipities, leading Italian academic and intellectual Umberto Eco closed his first essay with this thought:

After all, the cultivated person’s first duty is to be always prepared to rewrite the encyclopedia.[2]

In 1994, when Eco lectured to the University of Bologna on “The Force of Falsity,” he naturally did not mean this statement literally. For him, the encyclopedia is metaphorical; a revision of beliefs is a sign of a civilization that can question itself, and ...

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