News and notes
On the fourteenth anniversary of the founding of the English Wikipedia, the Praemium Erasmianum Foundation has announced that its prestigious annual Erasmus Prize will be awarded to the worldwide community that has built Wikipedia.
Desiderius Erasmus was a Dutch Catholic theologian who lived during the Reformation. While critical of the Catholic Church, he did not join the nascent Lutheran movement, instead committing himself to reforming it from within. He is remembered today as a preeminent humanist and scholar, author of many works including The Praise of Folly.
According to the foundation:
||Wikipedia receives the prize because it has promoted the dissemination of knowledge through a comprehensive and universally accessible encyclopaedia. To achieve that, the initiators of Wikipedia have designed a new and effective democratic platform. The prize specifically recognises Wikipedia as a community — a shared project that involves tens of thousands of volunteers around the world who help shape this initiative. ...
By distributing knowledge to places where it was previously unavailable, Wikipedia also plays an important role in countries where neutrality and open information are not taken for granted. With its worldwide reach and social impact, Wikipedia does justice to the idea of a single yet diverse world. It is a digital reference work available in various languages, undergoing permanent development. Through its open character, Wikipedia highlights how sources of knowledge are not neutral and must always be weighed. With its critical attention to text, sources and the expansion of knowledge, Wikipedia reflects the ideas of Erasmus, the world citizen after whom the prize is named.
Lila Tretikov, the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), stated that "I am proud that Wikipedia is being recognized for the incredible collective impact it has had to date. As we look to the future of free knowledge, we will continue to be guided by the principles the Erasmus Prize today honors." An official ceremony will occur in autumn 2015.
Of note is the seeming purposeful singling out of the Wikipedia, rather than Wikimedia, community. This distinction appears to have been noted by the WMF, which presciently attempted to expand the scope of the award in the opening lines of its press release. The organization called attention to this being a first time a "collaborative community" has won the award—the qualifier needed to distinguish it from the 1958 prize, which was given to the Austrian people for having "become the shining example of a positive mentality, of courage, energy and confidence in the future of Europe, by the way in which as a minorité créatrice it opened paths for the free nations of Europe to follow."
The €150,000 in prize funds for the 2015 award will be given to the Wikimedia Foundation, which has already declared that it will be given back to the community in the form of individual grants or similar support. Given the short amount of time between the announcement and our date of publication, the WMF was unable to provide further specificity at this time.
Further coverage is available in this week's "In the media" section.
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