Wikipedia is embroiled in yet another controversy, this time over entries which reveal answers to the Rorschach ink blot psychological tests. For those who do not know, the Rorschach test is a series of 10 inkblot slides created by renown Swiss psychiatrist Hermann Rorschach in 1921. The test, which most of us are familiar with vie movies and TV, is arguably one of the oldest continually used psychological testing apparatuses still applied to the profession. The point of contention is that Wikipedia is in effect offering answers that might ultimately skew results, thereby rendering the tests ineffective. The long and short of the debate being, psychologists might no longer be able to effectively use the tests as a tool to help patients.
The initial debate was over the Wikipedia presentation of a single plate, which has now turned into a full blow argument because of the (link to Wikipedia article) posting of all 10 plates by James Heilman, and emergency room doctor from Canada. Heilman included the images of all 10 plates, with the most common responses to them at the bottom of an article explaining the tests. The simple implication here is that posting what might be considered “normal” answers to the test’s questions, is in effect like giving the correct answers to any other test, only with much more dramatic effect. Besides skewing results, diluting the test’s effectiveness also renders tens of thousands of pages of research worthless.
What Is Inappropriate Any Way?
This is not the first time Wikipedia has been under the microscope with regard to entries, nor will it be the last. From my personal experience, and in conversations with my friend Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, that organization can be about as hard to crack as Fort Knox as far as entries are concerned. My last discourse with Wales over entries there dealt with what one would think was a simple matter of “inappropriate content”, namely pornographic entries and links to Wikipedia.
Knowing Wales well these last few years, I fully expected something would be done about entries which clearly represented potentially damaging content for young children especially, but things were not that simple. The Wikipedia organization of editors and contributors turned out to be more like a secret society of wizards and monarchs than anything else. As it turns out, from this writer’s experience, Wales appears to have either little control over what goes on there, or he is decidedly uninterested in dealing with such issues. As to why, I can only speculate. I am wondering when or if Wales will ever step in to address some of these issues.
This go around, perhaps the more “weighty” arguments from the psychological and medical community will effect some action from Wikipedia’s elite? I seriously doubt it though. Wikipedia is perhaps the most truly excellent innovation of the Internet, with regard to communicating knowledge, and also as far as collaborative ideas go. I have always been a supporter of it, and Wales for that matter. Being a supporter however, does not mean being a “yes man”, nor is anything excellent made more refined in agreeing with the taskmasters all the time. At some point, maybe not here, Wikipedia as an entity is going to have to admit that some things simply must be left out or wholly public forums. If this is called “censorship”, then let it be so. I believe that exclusion or even compartmentalization of some knowledge is necessary. The more liberal “anything goes” types will always argue “free speech”, or some such nonsense. The fact always remains, some knowledge is too sensitive for a fully open forum.
Wikipedia or any institution for that matter, has a responsibility to all the people it engages. This is both a moral one, and a legal one. In the video above Jimmy is evangelizing the perfect argument for freedom of expression. However, the instances he has so adamantly helped, being those dealing with suppression of people, is a far cry from expressing anything and everything. As far as the morality of Wikipedia is concerned, I have always found that aspect to be insufferably nebulous and casual. When it comes to legally binding instances, when forced to, Wikipedia’s elite cave in like whipped puppies depending of course on the implications. I do not believe this is a function of Jimmy Wales’ ideals, but I do think it is a problem brought about by his style of managing – “non-micro” being the term here.
It should be noted that all psychologists are not up in army about this issue too. However, if the reader thinks about it, watering down decades of clinical research with a small Wikipedia entry does seem wrong – inherently. I would say it even goes against the ideals Wales first created Wikipedia for – educational and socially responsibility directed. At some point people are going to ask the question; “When is enough, enough?” Wikipedia as it is now would apparently allow articles on how to end life on Earth out of some ultra liberal religious ideology.