Can We Please Put The 'Amateur Brain Surgeon' Strawman To Rest?

from the please,-make-it-go-away dept

For years, the common criticism of Wikipedia was the "brain surgery" myth, which usually was something along the lines of saying, "you wouldn't let an amateur or 'the crowd' perform brain surgery, so why would you let them create a reference book?" Of course, that makes a bunch of bogus assumptions. First, it assumes that there's some sort of equivalence between creating an encyclopedia and doing brain surgery. But that's silly. Second, it assumes that no one involved in Wikipedia is an expert, which is not true. In fact, there are some brain surgeons who patrol Wikipedia as well. Finally, it assumes that these kinds of services are based on everyone being on equal footing, rather than recognizing that well-supported content is what gets through.

Along those lines, we've now got people using the same bogus "brain surgery" myth to attack the concept of "citizen journalism":
First, would you trust a citizen neurosurgeon to remove your kid's neuroblastoma? No, you wouldn't. You would not trust a citizen dentist either for your cavities. Or even a people's car repairman.
Of course not. But most people seem to recognize the basic difference between reporting on something and cutting into someone's brain. And, many people also recognize that most reporters themselves are often not experts in the field they're reporting on -- and what participatory journalism and the internet enable is the ability for actual experts on the topic to take part in the discussion and reporting as well.

Filed Under: amateurs, experts


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    cc (profile), 21 May 2010 @ 2:17pm

    If it were possible to take the average movement of the hands of 1000 people with minimal training in brain surgery cutting into someone's brain and compare it to the movement of the hands of a trained brain surgeon, you'll probably find the former is more accurate and less prone to error than the latter.

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