Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Wikiality, Part II

Apparently an entry on wikiality was posted last night on the Wikipedia site for the Colbert Report (which Stephen had shown on his show). I'm pretty sure it was the entry Stephen had posted *while shooting the segment*. It was taken down sometime this morning. As I had predicted, traffic on the site after the broadcast came close to crashing it. On the discussion page there was a lively debate about whether or not wikiality was worthy of a entry, since it had only been introduced literally yesterday. Only a few of the people posting responded to the bigger issue: that wikiality is a critique of Wikipedia as a whole, and that Wikipedia cannot now be seen as a passive, objective purveyor or knowledge in this case because, like a newspaper at the center of a plagiarism scandal, it is now part of the story. Can Wikipedia present an objective entry on wikiality? In fact, there's no such thing as an objective entry in Wikipedia. Can they ignore it? Ignoring it would look like criticism; leaving it would look self-agrandizing. They are in a damned if they do/damned if they don't scenario. But more importantly, they are now faced with a serious critique of their own model. It is delightfully postmodern (as is Wikipedia itself).

Think about this for a second. Wikipedia is a democratic encylcopedia in which anyone can edit an entry. They are often beset by spin doctors and vandals posting erroneous info to their site. But they can also end up printing erroneous ino simply because enough people believe it to be correct that they keep posting it. Wikiality is a word used to describe this phenomenon--not only on Wikipedia but in our spin doctored world in general. And entry was created for wikiality on Wikipedia. At once it is self-reflexive. It challenges the truthfulness (but not the truthiness, obviously) of Wikipedia itself while becoming part of the Wikipedia. That it's down now really shows how problematic a term it is.

I am so loving this!


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