Commonplace Imaginings

Encyclopedias as a Space of Shared Knowledge Throughout the Ages

Articulation(s): ASCA International Workshop 2010, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, NL, 2010.

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Presented at the 2010 ASCA International Workshop and coinciding with the conclusion of the historical overview of my doctoral research, this paper focused on the common thread that binds all incarnations of the encyclopedic ideal as a meeting place of scholars, philosophers and ideas. While the focus of education and centres of intellectual power shifted throughout centuries and among nations, encyclopedias, in one form or another, remained a virtual shared space for ideas and what is accepted as knowledge.

Building on the seminal works of Henri Lefebvre and others on the construction and use of social and virtual spaces, I first investigated the viability of such an approach to the encyclopedic ideal and then moved on to the specific case of Wikipedia to discuss the impact of its collaborative and consensus based nature.

Challenging the arguments and subject matter of an existing research project against a different theoretical framework proved to be a worthwhile exercise and the ASCA community was receptive and forthcoming as always to participate in my experiment.