When Is Wikipedia Best Used, and By Whom?
Wikipedia is often claimed to be a non-credible source for academic use because its pages can be edited by anyone. It is essentially a non-profit organizations supported by its volunteers. The main goal of Wikipedia and its contributors is to share their knowledge with the rest of the world. Wikipedia covers a wide range of narrow and general topics. Fashion Designers are one of the many groups of people who can benefit from Wikipedia. Fashion Design is itself a very broad topic, and while Wikipedia covers most of its history and notable people, it does not provide detailed information for all the aspects of fashion design that it covers. Hence, fashion designer can see Wikipedia as a general source for reference, but should not consider it a primary source.
Pros and Cons of Wikipedia
The comprehensiveness of Wikipedia is one of its main accomplishments. When a fashion designer visits Wikipedia’s “Fashion Design” page, he/she has access to a broad definition of fashion design, its structure, history, and terminology and career information. For someone who is a starter in fashion design or needs to understand its various aspects to dive into a deeper research, Wikipedia is the primary source. Wikipedia articles have one significant advantage over academic articles; they are linked to other Wikipedia pages and websites. While, academic articles have reference pages they are not so easy to navigate through and change links. “Wikipedia articles are all linked, or cross-referenced. When highlighted text like this is seen, it means there is a link to some relevant article or Wikipedia page with further in-depth. The reader is always one click away from more information on any point that has a link attached” (Wikipedia).
The main argument against use of Wikipedia is its credibility and this is a concern for fashion designers as well. It would be rather inefficient for them to use a source that provides misleading information. However, according to Naeemah Clark people use Wikipedia as a “jumping off point for continued research”. Lucy Holman Rector, in her research titled Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles, states that Wikipedia is not so unreliable after all. The study that Rector conducted was not a big one as it included only nine Wikipedia historical entries and because of the small sample size we cannot say that her findings are conclusive. However, the research did indicate that Wikipedia pages had 80% accuracy rate. “Overall, Wikipedia's accuracy rate was 80 percent compared with 95-96 percent accuracy within the other sources. This study does support the claim that Wikipedia is less reliable than other reference resources. Furthermore, the research found at least five unattributed direct quotations and verbatim text from other sources with no citations” (Rector). Wikipedia does not hide its open editing policy and this is one of the things that allow it to stay a free resource accessible for public. Encyclopedia Britannica and academic journals while being more reliable are also much more expensive, since they do not rely on amateur volunteer services. Hence, Wikipedia is a good first source of information for fashion designers and other groups, who are aware of its open editing policy and are mindful of what they read.
The creation of online database can be equated to the creation of printing press in 1440. The accessibility of printing press made mass printing possible and along with mass printing came an abundance of information that people were unable to process. The overflow of information forced people to choose what to read and many people chose to read the materials that conformed to their views. Hence, according to Nate Silver, printing press is partially responsible for increased isolation along national and religions lines. Availability of information online has the same power as printing press did in 16th and 17th centuries, since people can be selective about what they read. Free sources such as Wikipedia, might not be 100% accurate and many might say that entries can be biased based on the editor’s beliefs, but its open editing policy allows multiple sides of the same story to be recorded. So just like printed press is not always reliable and can often be read selectively, so can Wikipedia, making it a good source for conscious readers. So since we have establish that Wikipedia is a relatively reliable resource for fashion designers it is important to talk about the different kinds of information that can be found on Wikipedia’s pages relating to fashion design.
Wikipedia for Fashion Designers
Two of the most useful pages are the directories of Fashion Design companies and fashion design magazines. The lists would potentially allow fashion designers to search for magazine and companies and have a general overview of them. Each company’s or magazine’s name is linked to an article about it. This makes research of potential employment options much easier. It also allows those who are starters in fashion design to know what are the leading companies and magazines in the field. Wikipedia also has an article about Fashion design and advanced technology. It gives fashion designers a chance to learn about technology’s integration into fashion.
On the other hand, Wikipedia is not the only source for this information. Council of Fashion Designers of America has its own website where many of the contemporary companies and magazines are listed along with the current trends of fashion. In addition, Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA) administers a program called CFDA Fashion Incubator and the goal of this program is to “support the next generation of fashion designers in New York city”. “By offering low cost design studio space, business mentoring, education seminars, and the networking opportunities the program provides a way for participants to reach their full potential and become an integral part of New York Fashion community” (CDFA). The organization is based in New York and seems to assist New York community; however, this does not mean that it cannot serve as a valuable source for others throughout the United States.
There is also a website called Fashion Industry Network. It is created in form of a forum discussions and blogs. This website is complementary to Wikipedia, because it does not provide the general background information for fashion designers. Instead it is a medium for discussions of fashion and current trends. “A business network for the fashion industry to share knowledge regarding fashion, style and design.” Users of this website can join groups, comment, post blogs, photos and videos; they can also search for jobs in fashion industry. In its essence Fashion Industry Network is a social network. It is the Facebook of fashion designers.
Once again we have to return to Wikipedia since it talks about the importance of social media in fashion design. “Through these media outlets, readers and viewers all over the world can learn about fashion, making it very accessible” (Wikipedia). In no way does Wikipedia claim itself to be the primary and the only source for fashion designers. On the contrary it is the resource center that branches out into thousands of online pages. Wikipedia notes that social media is not only a source for interaction, but that it is also a source for marketing. According to the Social media in the fashion industry page in Wikipedia, apps and other interactive online tools have made social media ads into games. The hope is that the subtleness of these ad games will entice the player, while not angering him with a selling pitch.
Evaluation on Fashion Designer: Vanessa Bruno
One famous fashion designer that will be discussed is Vanessa Bruno. According to Wikipedia, she is a Parisian clothing designer. She launched her first clothing brand in 1996 and before she used to work as a model, actress and singer. She collaborated with another designer and filmmaker Stephanie Di Giustoto design clothes as well as acting for short films. Wikipedia further indicates that Vanessa began her fashion career at the age of 24 in Paris, France. Her fashion label included thick leggings, simple pastel and layers of knit leotard. She then could organize her collection into different themes including her ballet outfits for Autumn/Winter 2010 collection. For another website, elle.com, they report about what Bruno does best and most of her history is about her designing career. The site has several pictures of the model with different design clothes for each season since the fall of 2007.
Of the two sites, elle.com has a more introspect analysis of the model with what she does best, modeling, given the priority. Wikipedia has just one citation with no photo of the model except a short history of her. For elle.com, they have also a short history but that is put in a manner to suggest her prowess in the industry as well with several of her modeling photos on their site. On top of this, Wikipedia site suggests that any person with more information on the model can make a contribution. This clearly shows that the information of the designer can be wrongly altered depending on who is contributing unlike elle.com where contributors are not allowed to input their contribution.
Wikipedia is a good resource for many people. It is not the only source, but it is the source for quick information check and for research. It has been made clear throughout the paper that Wikipedia is not intended to be a replaced for any other information sources. However, what Wikipedia does is that it gives public free access to information. It is well known that informed citizens are the best kinds of citizens and Wikipedia gives us all the opportunity to inform and educated ourselves about a wide variety of topics. It certainly can be biased, but its open editing policy allows biases of one writer to be eliminated by another. Wikipedia is a system with its own checks and balance. Fashion Designers also can use Wikipedia to get general information about fashion industry.
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