Beyond the legacy of the Enlightenment? Online encyclopaedias as digital heterotopias

  • Jutta Haider Lund University
  • Olof Sundin Lund University
Keywords: Wikipedia, Online Encyclopedias, Enlightenment, Foucault, Heterotopia

Abstract

This article explores how we can understand contemporary participatory online encyclopaedic expressions, particularly Wikipedia, in their traditional role as continuation of the Enlightenment ideal, as well as in the distinctly different space of the Internet. Firstly we position these encyclopaedias in a historical tradition. Secondly, we assign them a place in contemporary digital networks which marks them out as sites in which Enlightenment ideals of universal knowledge take on a new shape. We argue that the Foucauldian concept of heterotopia, that is special spaces which exist within society, transferred online, can serve to understand Wikipedia and similar participatory online encyclopaedias in their role as unique spaces for the construction of knowledge, memory and culture in late modern society.

Author Biographies

Jutta Haider, Lund University
Jutta Haider is a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden. She received her PhD from the Department of Information Science at City University London, UK. Her research interests include digital cultures and critical internet studies.
Olof Sundin, Lund University
Olof Sundin, docent, is a researcher at the Department of Education, University of Gothenburg, Sweden and a Senior Lecturer at the Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences, Lund University, Sweden. He received his PhD from University of Gothenburg, Sweden. His research interests include information literacies as well as socio-cultural aspects of information practices.
Published
2009-12-29
How to Cite
Haider, J., & Sundin, O. (2009). Beyond the legacy of the Enlightenment? Online encyclopaedias as digital heterotopias. First Monday, 15(1). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v15i1.2744