24 08 2007

_wikipedia-logo_bwb.jpg  Madness on the Interweb

According to a Slate story (which, in turn is according to a bunch of other sources) a 20-something Californian stopped surfing and highlighting his hair and cruising the 101 and munching on In N Out and doing the Chok-a-bra symbol long enough to create a program that will most likely fundamentally alter one of the most popular sites on the internet. With Wikiscanner (check it out after reading the Slate story), he’s essentially created a way for people (anyone, really) to determine which posts belong to whom.

We can double-check our facts, knowing who put them where, who polluted a previously pristine post or, on the other hand (and possibly more dangerously) swept facts under a binary rug. Exxon’s crew apparently underwent a mission to virtually deny that the Valdez spill was an environmental problem, let alone catastrophe.

Ideally, this distills out biases from a site whose biggest danger comes in taking it at face value. But what it also does is make all of us The Man. Ironically, the Chock-a-brah-ing, hair-dying, Animal-Style-Burger-housing 20something had made all of us a democratic police force, inverting the usual power relationship between the monied and the many. Presidents and pedestrians stand on the same level of accountability, bound by their digital tracks, in IP addresses.

It’s a cool prospect, this whistle-blowing. But it’ll also throw urn all suspect posts, even the not-so-awful ones, into the mercy of daylight.

At a time in the middle of last summer, there was a page devoted to a Greek philosopher, documenting his contributions to the communities of ethics and science and logic, the last two of which he pretty much created. The page was written relatively well, putting forth cogent arguments and citing all of its information. The only questionable fact was the guy’s name: Aristotle Balls.

Who knew they had last names in Athens?

Wikipedia is an encyclopedia bred with a playground. Marrying Aristotle to testicles has virtually the same effect as this:


This kind of stuff represents a new and modern medium for graffiti, the art form rampant in both urban centers and glamorized in coffee table books for stoners. Defacing innocent walls, and by doing so, adding a dimension of spontaneous art/personal expression is timeless. In Wikipedia, the act of verbally painting over innocent profiles of businesses, people and ideas is virtually the same thing. Wikifitti, as I’ll call it, is much needed, one of the most basically postmodern acts on the internet, tearing down established truths and facts and stories with obscure, obscene and generally hilarious interjections. If postmodernism (I’m sorry for using the word) is a blending of high and low culture, like putting a banner of Nintendo characters behind the ionic columns of an art museum, this wikifitti serves as yet another, just as poignant example. What is reality, when sent through a filter? And who didn’t laugh in high school when they found the word “sex” highlighted in a book with an accompanying drawing?

Certainly, this graffiti can be dangerous. But, really, who actually believes what he/she reads on Wikipedia anyway? Probably the same people who protest the use of curse words in literature.