Different Forms of Knowledge for the skeptical Wikipedian

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What lies beyond 'traditional' Wikipedia articles?

This page intends to explain the concept of "different forms of free, trusted knowledge", as stated in the 2017 Strategic Direction, in a very concrete, hands-on way. The goal is to help 'conservative' Wikipedians understand the actual implications of the Strategic Direction for Wikipedia and its sister projects.

What kind of "different forms of knowledge" is the Strategic Direction talking about?[edit]

Unfortunately, the Strategic Direction does not define the term, but the following examples have come up in previous discussions:

  • oral history, in the form of oral citations
  • structured data
  • video, 3D models, VR environments, data
  • recipes, music
  • tastes, touches, smells
  • knowledge with intentional gaps to respect cultures that treat certain knowledge as sacred or secret
  • "forms of knowledge yet to come"

What do "different forms of knowledge" mean for Wikipedia?[edit]

Can't we just create sister projects for these "different forms of knowledge"?[edit]

Yes, and many such projects have already been proposed. But maybe these "different forms of knowledge" should also be incorporated into the existing Wikimedia projects.

Which language versions of Wikipedia should incorporate "different forms of knowledge"?[edit]

Maybe things like oral citations should primarily be incorporated in language versions that lack written sources.

Will the Strategic Direction affect Wikipedia's current editorial standards?[edit]

Maybe. In January 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation's Audiences team published a white paper which proposes to "very carefully move away from a sole-reliance on published secondary sources by a handful of institutions".[1] Depending on how this phrase is to be understood, it could mean that Wikipedia would modify two of its three core content policiesVerifiability and No original research. As of 2019, the Wikimedia Foundation is conducting research on what might constitute a "reliable" oral tradition.[2]

What could 'oral citations' or 'oral knowledge' look like on Wikipedia?[edit]

In 2011, the Oral Citations research project produced sample articles on English and other language Wikipedias such as Surr and Neeliyar Bhagavathi.

Will the Strategic Direction affect the way the Wikimedia movement allocates its funds, including grants to affiliate organisations and individual community members?[edit]

Certainly. As of February 2019, the Resource Allocations Working Group is expected to publish according proposals in time for Wikimania 2019.

What are the reasons Wikipedians might be skeptical about "different forms of knowledge"?[edit]

  • One reason is the fear that Wikipedia as we know it could be damaged or distorted by adding "different forms of knowledge" to it. This fear is further nourished by the lack of a definition of what needs to be added.
  • Another reason is the astonishment felt when Wikipedia authors have to listen to discussions about 'gaps' and 'missing knowledge' over and over again without seeing the discussion participants actually working to fill these gaps. Are we Wikipedians hindering anyone from filling as many gaps as they like? From a Wikipedian perspective, that can surely not be the case. So why is there so much talk and so little 'doing'?

See also[edit]


  1. Bolliger, Trevor; Hollender, Alex; Katz, Jon; Novotny, Margeigh (2019). "Reliability". Trust. San Francisco: Wikimedia Foundation. p. 13. 
  2. Katherine Maher, in: Slate Money Podcast, The This Should Be Free Edition, at 7'50''.