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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  1. icon
    Emmanuel Carabott (profile), 24 May 2010 @ 1:24am

    The real reason

    I think the problem here is not that people are afraid of some doctor doing brain surgery on them who would have studied brain surgery on wikipedia (obviously no one expects that to ever happen) I think its more like fear of free. I have seen it a lot especially in the gaming world. A lot of people have the misconception that since its free, it doesnt generate money and thus it cannot be of equal quality of something that charges money. And it would be fine if it ends there but it somehow turns into hostility towards the free offering as if the free offering is harming the world and we need to get rid of it or something. Its like some people want to hate free stuff and they're looking for any excuse to rationalize it.

    Further more if its the profession that makes people good at their job and only people who are good at their job can do the job at all, isnt that a bit of a chicken and egg problem? no one is born into a profession. Surely everyone can see that! I think its really all fear of the free

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