William Beutler on Wikipedia

Posts Tagged ‘Nathaniel Stern’

The Art of Editing Wikipedia

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on May 18, 2009 at 5:14 pm

At the moment I don’t have a great deal to say about the controversy over Wikipedia Art — with work being so busy, I haven’t had a great deal to say about anything lately — that hasn’t been said by TechDirt’s Mike Masnick or summarzied by Wikipedia itself. There are two primary, and primarily separate aspects to the controversy:

  1. The original concept, which was a Wikipedia article that was supposed to be the artwork itself, which was quickly deleted and isn’t especially controversial in itself but is sort of curious; and
  2. The lawsuit by Wikimedia Foundation against the Wikipedia Art creators over the website wikipediaart.org, which they subsequently created to document the situation as performance art, and remains an ongoing controversy.

The second part is too complicated for me to address just now, but I find the first part amusing enough, and it so happens that my former colleague Simon Owens interviewed the creators of the controversial website for his PBS MediaShift column, and his report explains what exactly the Wikipedia Art creators were going for in the first place:

Artists Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern developed the idea to create a self-referencing Wikipedia article late last year. The plan was to write a new article, titled Wikipedia Art that was wholly devoted to the fact that the page had been created — an article that was completely meta and self-referential.

Wikipedia Art logoThe axiom that all press is good press is especially apt when considering Wikipedia Art. The project is, in essence, the amalgamation of everything that references it. …

Because Wikipedia articles are strictly required to have citations (both to establish notability and to verify the facts they assert are true), the artists reached out before the article was published to several blogger and journalist friends, asking them to conduct interviews and write about the project, with the idea that those posts and articles would become fodder for citations.

“We knew when we put up the page we wouldn’t have any citations yet and it would be not notable,” Kildall told me. “But we simultaneously asked a number of people if they’d write about the project. We got about 15 to 20 people, some of whom wanted to do an interview with us based on the information we gave them. We had those ready to post at the time of the intervention. We didn’t know what they were going to write about beforehand, but we knew they were going to write something. So when we put up the page on Wikipedia, on Valentine’s Day, we simultaneously got everything released about a half hour from each other.”

As I said, it’s curious but there should be no surprise that the entry would be summarily deleted. The first pillar of Wikipedia is that it is an encyclopedia, and because one would not expect Britannica to play host to such a stunt, nor is Wikipedia going to go along with it.

I may write more about this subject as time permits, and perhaps as the case progresses, but for now let me conclude by pointing out that it reminds me greatly of the following recent XKCD comic:

Wikipedia Art logo courtesy wikipediaart.org. XKCD cartoon courtesy XKCD.