Ziko van Dijk | Does Wikipedia have a future? On the representation of future events in an encyclopaedia

Wikipedia is supposed to offer reliable, established knowledge about the world. However, it also contains information about future events, such as the upcoming Olympic Games. Depending on the Wikipedia language version, there are even rules about future events. Yet one would think that Wikipedia struggles with the future, because by its very nature, humans cannot know anything for sure about it.

The proposed article looks for traces about how these rules came into being and what discussions there have been about them. It also explores what future events appear in Wikipedia and how they are presented. Such events may not only have their own encyclopedic article, but may be mentioned, hinted at or at least implied in various places.

A selection of Wikipedia language versions will be empirically tested. An attempt will be made to create a typology of future events and to propose a corresponding terminology (with reference to the existing literature on futurology). Finally, there will be a reflection on theory and practice in Wikipedia, because an encyclopaedia ultimately has a clear goal: to serve readers who want to orient themselves about the world they live in.

The research thesis of the paper is that the community of online encyclopaedists has developed a way of thinking about how to deal with the future. And this thinking about the future is informed by thinking about the past, because human beings can only have knowledge of the past. Presumably, this reflects Wikipedia’s typical ideas about content, such as notability, neutrality and verifiability.

Ziko van Dijk is a German living in the Netherlands, he studied history and German language (PhD 2006 in Utrecht). Among other things, he was head of a specialised library in Rotterdam (Netherlands). Since
2003 he has contributed to Wikipedia as an author and was a member of the arbitration board of the German-language Wikipedia. In 2011-2013 he was chairman of the Wikimedia Nederland supporting association.

He has given seminars on Wikipedia and related topics at various universities. He has published on Wikipedia in combination with history in German, for example in the volume for the Historikertag 2014. He is also the co-founder of the Klexikon, a children’s
encyclopaedia. In 2021, his introduction “Wikis und die Wikipedia verstehen” was published. He has a YouTube channel on the same topic in German and English.