Journal
A Look at the State of Integral on Wikipedia
January 21, 2010 14:57

Recently I took a look at the state of articles on Wikipedia with an eye towards determining how volunteer editors with knowledge of Integral Theory can chip in to make a difference. For an integral philosophy enthusiast who is willing to take the time to learn a bit about and strictly work within Wikipedia's culture and adhere to its requirements (neutral POV, verifiable sources, decisions by consensus, etc.), there's plenty of opportunity to help ensure the dissemination of accurate and unbiased information about integral philosophy through wikis.
 
Why is it important what Wikipedia says about Integral? 
 
Consider just two reasons. First: Because Wikipedia pages are very trusted by Google and other search engines, the resulting page is usually right at the top of a search. The wiki's impact is magnified many times because the content is open source and reproduced on hundreds of other websites all over the world. It has been widely observed that large numbers of Internet users seeking information about an individual or organization will go directly to the wiki entry rather than the official website because they believe the information is more likely to be unbiased. It is well known that journalists and bloggers use wiki when researching their articles and posts. 
 
Second: Research that shows that students (from high school to college and even graduate school) often turn to this resource as a first step in research on virtually any topic, even if they know that it cannot usually be cited as a credible source in their papers, because it can point them to credible sources that they can cite for their research. In terms of I-I's current goal of establishing integral studies as more widely accepted in academia, it's hard to think of a better investment of time and energy at this juncture.
 
What work remains to be done in this domain?
 
With regard to Ken Wilber, the main article on him at Wikipedia is currently very poorly sourced. Moreover, it's just not particularly well written and gives an out of date presentation of his thought. Out of his 20+ books, there are entries for only three, and these are also unevenly sourced. There is one article on his philosophy, at "Integral Theory", that has been an embarrassment and is now undergoing a full re-write (in my spare time I've worked to re-write several sections in the past few weeks). There are no articles on themes in Wilber's philosophy, such as "Integral Theory and postmodernism", "Integral Theory on science and religion", "Integral Theory and feminism," "Integral Theory and subtle energies," etc.  
 
I have identified about 20 to 30 pages on wiki for contributors to Integral Naked/IntegralLife.com already existing on wiki out of a universe of 200+, and there may be more I haven't researched. I would guess that there's an opportunity for increasing the number of individual pages by at least a factor of 3 or 4 times without running afoul of wiki's notability guidelines (which require multiple independent verifiable sources to indicate a figure's outstanding contribution to a field). Every addition would face the possibility of debate with other editors on a subject's notability, but if there's a genuinely good case for a subject's notability then this is a minor hurdle. There's an opportunity for many more individuals who haven't yet met wiki's notability guidelines could still be added to this link page (or whatever the page develops into), where the notability requirements are relaxed. Of course, additions would have to be done very judiciously and with complete adherence to wiki's guidelines on neutral POV, verifiable sources, no original research, etc.
 
Beyond the lack of individual articles on Integral movement figures, there are other important online identity issues as well. In general, the developmental psychology articles on wiki are in poor shape and general articles on subjects such as philosophy and theology and religious studies completely ignore the Integral movement. Sadly, right now, a reader of wiki's sections on religion, theology, philosophy, or psychology would have no reason to believe that Integral Theory even exists. There aren't nearly enough backlinks to Wilber or Integral Theory in these articles, and few mentions of Wilber's penchant critiques of various disciplines or ideas. (The "New Age" article is an important exception, as it lists Wilber's pre/trans fallacy as an important critique.) Finally, the templates and lists for the integral cluster of articles is currently pretty weak and could benefit from being more tightly integrated. 
 
Wrap up of needs/opportunities:
  • Continued effort to re-write "Integral Theory", especially the sections that have not been recently updated.
  • An extensive new Ken Wilber biographical article comparable in quality and scope to similar wiki profiles for Jung, Freud, and major philosophers.
  • New articles for 10+ domains of Integral University/Integral studies where they don't currently exist (e.g., "Integral Politics", "Integral Economics", "Integral Theory and Gender/Sexuality Studies", etc.)
  • 17 or more articles, one for each of Wilber's books, properly documented with references to independent reviews in order to individually establish each book's notability; also, possibly a Wilber bibliography that could be of use to future researchers and students.
  • Dozens or even 100+ articles for individual notable figures in the integral movement whose current treatment on wiki is non-existent (Susan Cook-Greuter, Jenny Wade, etc.) or a poorly cited and generally uninformative stub (e.g., Robert Kegan).
I'll be helping out on the Wikipedia this year in my spare time, and there are a few other integrally informed wiki editors, but we could use all the help we can get. Try it. Be bold. You just might find that you have a passion for contributing to the noosphere in this way, and could find yourself looking at other ways of contributing to the Wikipedia's development as well.
 
Joe Perez (www.joe-perez.com) is a professional writer with an interest in integral theory and owner of Writing Wolf (www.writingwolf.com), an editorial consulting firm that offers services in the area of profile development and online identity management.
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