Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.

Keywords

Knowledge, Technology, Social construction, Postmodernism, Content analysis

Abstract

In this study, I aim to examine (1) how authority is established and (2) how it is displayed. Through the use of content analysis, I investigate how the topics of "gender" and "race" within a contemporary social problems textbook compares and contrasts to corresponding Wikipedia articles. Through my research I wish to shed light on the social construction of knowledge within our modern society while also shedding light on the role that authority plays within knowledge. In order to examine how authority is established I examined the number of citations found in each topic, the publishing date of each reference and the location from which a citation emanated from. I found that authority is established differently between the two sources as each medium differed considerably in the number of citations presented, the average publishing date and the medium from which their resources were taken. To examine how authority is displayed I investigated the topics selected for both gender and race as well as the amount of space devoted to each topic.

While there were similarities in regards to topic selection between the textbook Wikipedia I also found a number of topics present within the Wikipedia articles that were not addressed at all within the textbook. I found that the disparities between the textbook and Wikipedia simply illustrated a difference in perspective between the two mediums. The textbook featured a large number of citations predominantly from peer-reviewed, social scientific sources as is common within the academic world while Wikipedia featured a large number of citations that drew from a wide range of locations. This distinction highlights the idea that while knowledge may be viewed by the general public as objective and unchanging there are in fact significant differences in how knowledge is presented and legitimated depending on its originating source.

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