Encyclopedic Enough?

On: October 4, 2010
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About Mareline Heijman
Prior to the master New Media, I've completed the ba Media & Cultuur at the University of Amsterdam. Interests: virtual reality, identity, future, creation, the way new media shapes us.


The integration of wiki knowledge into mirror worlds would possibly satisfy our desire to capture and understand the world to a large extend.

Mirror Worlds; Yes, I would like to contribute.

The 80s ‘neutral’ knowledge-gathering tour took me from reading massive encyclopedias in the dusty corners of the primary school library, via browsing categories on Microsoft cd-rom Encarta, to final station: Wikipedia on the web. Nights of writing papers as a 16year-old, preparing for history exams, proving rights from wrongs, attest meanings of the wrongs, looking up artists, theories on music, how does a camera work, what did Foucault look like? Wikipedia.org has proven a very helpful aid in numerous situations.

Following Livingstone in asking what was new for society about Wikipedia, the obvious answer would be the enabling of increased accessibility and the collective producing of a varied body of knowledge. Apart from the ideological discussion per every particular piece of content accessible on Wikipedia, we could think of the idea that the website as a whole presents a particular image of the world. It promotes for instance the world as understandable. I would state that Wikipedia actively shapes its users. A probable danger to users (not contributors per se) of Wikipedia lies in the hegemonic view that there exists only one absolute, truthful, objective perspective on things. What about the idea that the site potentially creates the need to acquire every trivial detail on the spot, just because it’s easy to get to. This is not the same as the need for remembering every detail. Not at all, Wikipedia seems to work as an extension of our own memory, a cyborg fantasy. I rely on this device to provide me from trivia on demand. If I can’t access the web, I get slightly upset. The tension described as above can be put in the following: What enabling and constraining models are implicit in the Wikipedia concept? Let’s look into this a little further by noting what happens when one tries to submit an article.

After signing up for an account (username= Dheijman) a wizard is trying to get me through the production of the first article. Such the works of Wikipedia are getting clearer. The site guards its objectivity in several ways. Submitting articles about “personal vendettas” for instance, is not very much appreciated. “They will likely be deleted”. What else is deleted? I would love to have insight in a wiki of deleted articles. Today, I will create an entry on ‘Mirror Worlds’ (digital representations of the real world). My guess this is a neologism:

Neologisms are words and terms that have recently been coined, generally do not appear in any dictionary, but may be used widely or within certain communities.

Perhaps it’s a Protologism? Uh oh:

In many cases, articles on neologisms get deleted. Articles on protologisms are almost always deleted as these articles are often created in an attempt to use Wikipedia to increase usage of the term.

Very well then, “I’m writing about something else”. Immediately I’m being warned, I shouldn’t try using peacock terms, or weasel words for that matter, or else.. “Your article should not engage in puffery” Wikipedia further requests evidence of the usage of newly added knowledge. This means the site restraints in preventing us from injecting newly invented terms into society. In that case you might say that Wikipedia is mirroring too; alongside shaping, it’s reflecting us as well.

These are just a few examples of the rules as granted by the Wikipedia organization. I assume that these are necessary and the reason why Wikipedia is a widely used platform of information sharing. But to be honest, the rules and the technological framework are both rather ambiguous at times. In that, Wikipedia feels very controlled and less open. Free use of collective intelligence seems somewhat different than free participation in such initiatives. The truth is you could in fact participate and modify information. But adding an article is not so wiki done. Wikipedia tends to reside an articulation of particular (middle-aged white men) groups. Oh well…”Get it fixed later.”


Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia

Livingstone, S. (1999). New Media, New Audiences? [online] London: LSE Research Online

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