Wikipedia : Wikipedia Signpost/2024-03-29/Op-Ed

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2024-04-02 07:00:06

In March 2023, I helped organize a Zoom call to discuss external trends that may impact the Wikimedia movement, and over a hundred Wikimedians attended to talk about the opportunities and risks of generative AI. But a different concern also surfaced that really surprised and stuck with me. Longtime English Wikipedia editor Ragesoss noted that when observing how his children like to learn things online, he saw that instead of going to websites, they sought out personalities who had built large followings on platforms like YouTube, and could provide information from an authentically human point of view. In the year since that AI call, the English Wikipedia community has heatedly debated how to respond to the opportunities and threats of generative AI. But this other trend – of people (especially younger people) seeking out personalities to aggregate knowledge for them, on social platforms that make it easy and rewarding for contributors to participate in new formats like short video – hasn’t been discussed as much. And while some Wikipedians may wonder what any of this has to do with encyclopedic content, I believe that this trend deserves as much attention and conversation in our community.

Despite the excitement (and hype) around generative AI in the press over the last year, Wikipedia is still used by more people globally than ChatGPT.[1] But, when looking at Wikipedia usage compared to usage of popular social platforms frequented by young people, the comparison is far less favorable for us. TikTok has close to two billion monthly global users – twice as many as Wikipedia – and is still growing.[2] And while it's tempting to dismiss TikTok and apps like it as entertainment platforms where young people only share and watch lip-syncing and viral dances, consider that a third of US people under age 30 recently reported regularly getting their news from TikTok, and one in four US TikTok users say they come to the platform for educational purposes like learning history.

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