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The Pop Culture of Wikipedia August 1, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in popculture, Wikipedia.
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I promote Wikipedia to practically everyone I come across. I’m the guy who is unknowingly talking about it 20 minutes into practically every conversation I find myself in, regardless of the original topic. I do this because I feel the site is a crucially necessary step in showing the world that the internet is part of something much bigger than a series of tubes. This entry, however, isn’t about universal praise. Something that I’ve been noticing more and more has been the tendency for editors to focus entirely too much on current events that are on the front pages of every news site or headlining every CNN broadcast. An overkill of additions and revisions that tends to keep an article up to the minute, but in turn, relevant for practically the same amount of time. I do not mean to condemn the actions of these contributors, but I see a certain bit of wasted potential. An example that I will turn to for the time being, mostly because its rightful prominence in the news today, is the conflict between Hezbollah and Israel. This article isn’t about the aforementioned conflict, I could very well have focused on Hurricane Katrina, the Indonesian Tsunami or several other events that have been felt around the world in recent years.

The distinction between what truly belongs in an encyclopedia and what does not has been contested since the inception of Wikipedia. Does every eWikipedia Main Pagepisode of TNG, or mediocre NBA player, or practically any one thing that has a fan following (regardless of size) deserve a separate entry? The editors Britannica or World Book would never consider these to be worthy additions, but apparently the editors of Wikipedia do, and that is all that matters as far as I’m concerned. Should Wikipedia double as a relevant news outlet? Once again, it appears that the editors have given the big affirmative to this question as well. So be it, but my issue is with the numbers. For the most part, and please correct me if I’m wrong, the contributors to the English version of Wikipedia are probably getting their information from English speaking sources. So the pot from which the editors get their information from is already a relatively limited one. Granted, English is a very prominent language on the web. But I would compare cutting the contributions from other parts of the world short is like suggesting that everyone should know about the ENRON debacle, simply because Americans do. Moving on, If every English speaking contributor is getting the same information from the same sources, and publishing to the same article at the same time, there is a tremendous amount of overlap and regurgitation of material that end up in the wasteland of the History portion of said article. If everyone has the same information to report, and editors are aware of this by the number rate the article history changes, I think it would be rather responsible to chose something else to report on.

In the Wikipedia entry on Wikipedia (somewhere I’m sure all contributors have been), there is a commentary about the unbalanced nature of many of the articles. This unbalance, it states, is due to the fact that “that editors, being volunteers, write on what interests them, and what they are aware of.” This is a similar phenomenon as the popular culture aspect that I’m writing about. Everyone is writing about the current conflict in the middle east because it is generally something that is of interest, and subsequently, importance to them. Considering what I’ve focused on thus far on this site, it should be obvious that I am one who thinks an interest in geopolitics is quite important. But there are a number of other events happening in the world that are just as important. A biased example I have of something rather important that is getting limited contributions, but plenty of exposure is the breakdown of the global trade talks regarding, among other things, agricultural subsidies granted within the wealthiest of nations. For a few days now, the Doha Development Round has been prominently featured on the in the news corner of the English Wikipedia’s main page. Yet the article itself is brief and generally uninformative of anything but the basic principles behind the talks, and why they broke down. The amount of subsidies wealthy governments provide to their farmers is something that has helped keep the poverty trap in place. This trap, which prevents poorer countries from even starting the race to compete in a global economy, and the policies around it, deserve more attention than it receives. One would think, that being on the front page of the 20th most visited site in the world, it has this attention. But based on the article size, it appears that popular culture, and what you see on CNN (or any news source for that matter) runs Wikipedia. At least as far as current events are concerned. Granted, there are other factors at play that dictate article size (search engine indexing, link’s from other news sites or blogs, just to name a few). My suggestion, take it as you will, is if you’re someone who contributes to an article that gets updated more frequently than a heated discussion on Digg, why not look for another way to contribute? I promote the idea of live updating. Continuously refreshing an entry on an episode of The Simpsons that is being aired for the first time is an interesting phenomenon indeed. But the smaller scale prevents the unnecessary level of repletion as mentioned several times above. Lastly, not wanting to sound too much like a hypocrite, I plan on adding to the Doha Round article shortly!

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Comments»

1. Tazo - August 1, 2006

I too always mention Wikipedia…because I tend to know a lot of things on a lot of subjects…and being not 20 yet, ppl are surprised I do know so much.

2. Through the Looking Glass » Colbert’s Wikiality (by Earthling Concerned) - August 11, 2006

[…] Fresh off of writing an article on the Pop Culture of Wikipedia a few nights ago (Monday), I tuned into the Colbert Report and realized he was initiating his own type of popular influence onto the site. With his next to next to latest, “The WØRD”, he defined another word that will surely make as many headlines as last year’s “truthiness”: […]

3. Earthling Concerned » The Colbert Effect - August 11, 2006

[…] I’ve written two articles (I and II) on Wikipedia and Colbert in the last week and a half and promise to you that this will be the final chapter of my Colbert Report discussion. Pt. III of the trilogy if you will. But there have been some interesting developments since then so here I am yet again. Since the last article, Wikipedia has been brought up briefly by interviewee Wes Boyd, co-creator of Moveon.org (who themselves have a youtube satire about Colbert) and those flying toasters you may have seen on your desktop circa 1994. The brief mention was simply another comment on some false statistics Colbert claimed were true and it didn’t even cause the slightest ripple on the Internet. But Wikipedia on Colbert was so last week. His most recent call on his legions of fans came a few nights ago during his “Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger”. It was during this segment that he discussed how an Internet poll was being used to decide the name of a Hungarian bridge that is being built over the Danube. The task at hand was simple, go to the website of the bridge and name the bridge “The Stephen Colbert Bridge”. Shortly after the announcement, the site was overloaded with traffic (as one would imagine) and was no longer accessible. So there you go, Colbert is at it again, the pop culture of Stephen Colbert continues. How much power does this one man have? How large is his army? […]

4. Earthling Concerned » The Colbert Effect (Updated) - August 16, 2006

[…] I’ve written two articles (I and II) on Wikipedia and Colbert in the last week and a half and promise to you that this will be the final chapter of my Colbert Report discussion. Pt. III of the trilogy if you will. But there have been some interesting developments since then so here I am yet again. Since the last article, Wikipedia has been brought up briefly by interviewee Wes Boyd, co-creator of Moveon.org (who themselves have a youtube satire about Colbert) and those flying toasters you may have seen on your desktop circa 1994. The brief mention was simply another comment on some false statistics Colbert claimed were true and it didn’t even cause the slightest ripple on the Internet. But Wikipedia on Colbert was so last week. His most recent call on his legions of fans came a few nights ago during his “Tip of the Hat, Wag of the Finger”. It was during this segment that he discussed how an Internet poll was being used to decide the name of a Hungarian bridge that is being built over the Danube. The task at hand was simple, go to the website of the bridge and name the bridge “The Stephen Colbert Bridge”. Shortly after the announcement, the site was overloaded with traffic (as one would imagine) and was no longer accessible. So there you go, Colbert is at it again, the pop culture of Stephen Colbert continues. How much power does this one man have? How large is his army? […]

5. WhippyGoldberg - December 23, 2006

wikipedia will tell us what is truth. we shouldn’t worry our little individual brains. we should not question the majority even if they start killing people and putting them in boxcars and shipping them to Auschwitz. never question the majority. ever!

6. The Colbert Effect :: earthling.concerned - February 18, 2008

[…] below), but, maybe I’m just overanalyzing this whole situation like I have been since my first two articles! Beyond this, there is nothing for me to report except that the Samuel L. Jackson […]

7. Colbert’s Wikiality (Part Deux) :: earthling.concerned - February 18, 2008

[…] off of writing an article on the Pop Culture of Wikipedia a few nights ago (Monday), I tuned into the Colbert Report and realized he was initiating his own […]

8. The Colbert Effect - earthling.concerned - October 16, 2008

[…] below), but, maybe I’m just overanalyzing this whole situation like I have been since my first two articles! Beyond this, there is nothing for me to report except that the Samuel L. Jackson […]

9. Colbert’s Wikiality (Part Deux) - earthling.concerned - October 17, 2008

[…] off of writing an article on the Pop Culture of Wikipedia a few nights ago (Monday), I tuned into the Colbert Report and realized he was initiating his own […]


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