Thursday, January 11, 2007

On Wikipedia

So I had this experience with Wikipedia: I was looking at the front page one day. The front page is interesting b/c it has featured articles, random articles, today in history, etc. It's a great place to waste time if you're an information junkie, which I am.

So I'm checking out this page one day and I see an article for "Strap on dildos" in the featured article section. I think I was appropriately shocked by subject matter such as this being featured on the front page of a public resource such as Wikipedia. Perhaps a little naively, I emailed their public information contact to let them know. Actually, I thought it was perhaps the work of a hacker; or that perhaps the front page was open to manipulation in the same manner that the rest of the site was. Let's just say that the response from the public info guy was less than sympathetic. It basically was this: "What's offensive to you isn't offensive to everybody."

All snooty relativistic philosophy aside, it really got me thinking. Here was a group self-representing as the depository of the wealth of information accumulated during the last few millenia of human experience. Wikipedia is supposedly just that: the place where you can find out anything. Were cultural norms of decency not a part of this great deposit of information? How could I trust a group that can't even discern that articles on strap ons are not appropriate for public display?

Furthermore, it led me to muse on the foundations of what Wikipedia is. It is a democracy of information. If you haven't seen that phrase anywhere else, then it's mine: democracy of information. I'm going to trademark it and make a million bucks. Anyways, Wikipedia is bunk because it is only about information. And what's more, it's about information for information's sake. It's sad because information is not to be consumed merely because it is there. Wikipedia is doing with information what Frito Lay does with snacks.

It's a far cry from the encyclopedists who wished to promote and distribute the best parts of our culture, such as Mortimer Adler and the folks at Encyclopedia Britanica. It's nice, it's convenient, it's huge, but it's not good. I would wish you, dear reader, to be very discriminating in what you consume.

That's why you're here.

1 comment:

SacraMentalPatient said...

Leaves me wondering what the Library of Alexandria would look like if it was plastered with advertising. I know, a stray tangent...

On another note, I was perusing a Catholic "online community" called and I was appalled to see the advertising they have on their site. One was for a laser pointer that is able to burn (wickedlasers), but what I found to be somewhat hypocritical by the site owners was the placement of an advertisement for a company based in the People's Republic of CHina, a nation that has for decades aborted babies due to their gender. Again, I felt that the intended audience, had they known the source of the ad would be highly offended to see that this site is accepting what the Church amounts to as blood money. I have since reported this to the public at large on that site via their forums (they have a right to know), but we'll see what results from that.