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By Wackywace, Theo10011 and Tilman Bayer
Umberto Eco during the interview
Aubrey (at Wikimania 2010)

Wikinews interviews Umberto Eco: "I am a compulsive user of Wikipedia"

User:Aubrey from Wikimedia Italia interviewed famed novelist, critic and semiotician Umberto Eco in his Milan home on April 24, 2010, as part of the chapter's WIKI@Home project. An English translation of the interview was recently made available on the Italian Wikinews (Wikinotizie).

Professor Eco described himself as "a compulsive user of Wikipedia, also for arthritic reasons: the more my back hurts, the more it costs me to get up and go to check the [Encyclopedia] Treccani .... When I write, I consult Wikipedia 30–40 times a day, because it is really helpful". However, he questioned its reliability. He stated that Wikipedia is good for the (intellectually) "rich" and bad for the "poor", explaining that as an educated person, he knows how to filter the information on Wikipedia, checking and comparing multiple sources rather than accepting a fact while a less well-educated user might not be as discriminating.

Asked whether it is better to have more people involved on a topic, as it is stated to be the case (under certain conditions) by the "wisdom of the crowds" theory of James Surowiecki, Professor Eco replied:

The interviewer observed a cultural difference on Wikipedia between the coverage of "hard" and "soft" sciences, and related it to a similar difference between the corresponding academic communities. Eco agreed that "hard" sciences place more value on collaboration and less on authorship than humanities. "Science is cumulative-destructive, it stores what it needs and throws away what it doesn't require. Humanities are totally cumulative, they don't throw away anything: in fact, there is always a return to the past." He also agreed that the strong collaboration on Wikipedia, facilitated by the use of free licenses and a culture of pseudonymity or even anonymity, might be part of a larger trend, which in 50 years would probably lead to "a cultural situation similar to the one in the Middle Ages, where [...] the authoriality was lost." However, he doubted this development would reach total anonymity, which, while it might give the appearance of democracy, "gives the idea that just one and only one truth exists".

When asked about free licenses and intellectual property in general, Eco said he did not consider piracy to be a tragedy, at least not for himself. The interview touched on the copyright controversy about Google Books, the e-book market, Adobe Reader and free software (Eco praised Open Office). Aubrey concluded by stating that Wikipedia, too, comes from the open source world.

A thread on Foundation-l contains background information on the interview and the "Wiki@Home" program. Apart from Eco, several other notable people have been interviewed. Questions are prepared collaboratively on a page on the Italian Wikinews; Wikimedia Italia then contacts the potential interviewee and chooses the interviewer (usually one of the chapter's members).


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a* For me it is a very useful feedback for using wikipedia,I have got some valuable information for you ,my good friend.Thanks very much.Space-flooring (talk) 06:48, 16 August 2010 (UTC)[reply]


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