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Submissions/Paradox of Legal Knowledge: Is there a neutral point of view?

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

After careful consideration, the programme committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2013 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission

Paradox of Legal Knowledge: Is there a neutral point of view?

Type of submission


Author of the submission

Tomasz Raburski

Country of origin



Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań

E-mail address



Tomasz Raburski

Personal homepage or blog

The presentation deals with the problem of encyclopedic knowledge about the law. It shows, that most readers look for the legal knowledge that is non-encyclopedic, and that the encyclopedic legal knowledge is mostly useless. It is argued that Wikipedia's standards of encyclopedic knowledge are impossible to achieve.

The main sources of this tensions are outlined. Law is closely bound to a specific language and social practice, and it is rarely examined from the universal point of view. Examples in the presentation are drawn from English, Polish and German Wikipedias.

Detailed proposal

The presentation deals with the problems of encyclopedic knowledge about the concepts and institutions of law. Other legal topics (such as biographies, organizations, organs of administration, legal acts) are not discussed here. Discussed problems include: the locality and embeddedness of law, transient nature of legal knowledge, and the practical form in which it is usually presented. Examples are drawn from English, Polish and German Wikipedias.

Presentation shows, that most readers look for the legal knowledge that is non-encyclopedic in its form, and what Wikipedia considers „encyclopedic” is mostly useless. Encyclopedic knowledge about the law is not only very hard to gather, but also uninteresting from the point of view of a common reader, who do not seek an abstract knowledge, but rather a solution to his everyday problems. Outside the Wikipedia, legal knowledge is presented from the practical point of view: in form of a references, compendiums, manuals or textbooks.

it is argued that Wikipedia’s standards of encyclopedic knowledge are impossible to achieve with reference to law and should be relaxed.

Law differs from the other fields of knowledge. It changes fast and is deeply embedded in local society, legal practice and specific language. This is true also for the other humanities and social sciences. In contrast to them, there are only few branches of the legal field that produce knowledge that exceeds the horizon of a single legal system. Legal scholars rarely communicate beyond the borders, and the literature they produce is aimed at the local markets. Thus Wikipedians have sources and competence allowing to write only about the local legal concepts and institutions. Particular difficulties arise when writing about the other legal cultures.

There are three possible fields of study, that may provide a basis for writing non-ethnocentric articles about the law: legal translations, legal comparatistics and jurislinguistics. The first one is too shallow and rarely provides a basis for Wikipedia articles. Comparatistics and jurislinguistics are much deeper, but rather marginal and highly specialized.

In the consequence, each Wikipedia has its own, semi-autonomous section about the law, and the interwiki system is here especially weak.

  • Analysis and Public Engagement
Length of presentation/talk
25 minutes
Language of presentation/talk


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yes, I have a scholarship

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  1. Curious what you intend to pull here. :) Aegis Maelstrom (talk) 08:22, 1 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Pundit (talk) 09:33, 1 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Ijon (talk) 06:01, 16 May 2013 (UTC)[reply]
  4. sign your username here