A Wiki, is a website that allows its users to add, edit, delete or change its own content. WikiPedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/) is a free encyclopedia that functions in just this manner.
My friend Matthew spent some time earlier this year deliberately trying to sabotage WikiPedia. I think it came about out of boredom, and mainly focused on changing entries subtly so they included a reference to goats. For instance doctoring the page about US president George Bush so the first sentance read; George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is the 43rd and current U.S. President, serving from January 20, 2001 and he is not a goat.
All of Matthew’s edits were reversed, usually within minutes, sometimes seconds and occasionally taking a little longer. So the system works. Matt (and my) IP address (the thing that uniquely identifies computers on the internet) was relatively quickly banned from making edits for a week. Apparently there are actually many people that spend incongruous amounts of time editing WikiPedia, and indeed have become addicted to it. Bizarre.
Initially I thought maybe doing the same as Matthew could constitute as a work of art somehow, but then remembered that WikiPedia is invaluable to me as a research tool and is one of the few resources that out-and-out trust what it says. This comes down to the ethos of WikiPedia editors and its rules and regulations, two of which are;
- Neutral Point of View: All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view (NPOV), representing fairly and without bias all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
- Attribution: Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, not a publisher of original thought. The threshold for inclusion in Wikipedia is whether material is attributable to a reliable published source, not whether it is true. Wikipedia is not the place to publish your opinions, experiences, or arguments.
Much as these rules create a brilliant resource, they (purposefully) prevent people from using WikiPedia as a forum for original thought or self-promotion and it is enforced strictly. Again, I agree with this whole heatedly, but can’t help but think its not fair that all the successful artists, musicians and writers are on WikiPedia and may derive promotional value from that. Whereas anyone unknown or aspirational can’t get onto the resource, because nobody knows who they are and nothing is published elsewhere about them. Catch 22.
I created a WikiPedia page about my Dad, to see if his credentials were enough to allow his page to be left on and not deleted. So far this has worked http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_lindley has been live on WikiPedia for a few weeks now, despite containing a warning that “this article lacks information on the notability (importance) of the subject matter”. So not perfect. I could probably put something on the page that would give it some kind of importance, though I’m not entirely sure what. I should put he is father to aspirational artist Joseph, which would maybe get my foot in the door.
I came across a kind of paradox that will, potentially, allow me to achieve my desire of having my own WikiPedia entry. I guess the reason I want this is that is feels like a sign that I would have arrived as an artist, if the WikiPedia editors think that I have the required notability. How it would work, is that I systematically sabotage WikiPedia, but work to a rationale. Realistically I think it would have to involve an aspect of networking too, for instance getting multiple other people to help me as the task is too big for one. Otherwise I could write a computer program to do it. If I can get around the constant re-editing by the WikiPedia monitors, and alter something sufficiently thought-provoking or controversial, enough times and involve enough people; ultimately I could evoke so much interest that I could then get media coverage (even if it is local) or better some sort of comment from a critic. This in turn should constitute relevance and notability enough that my page on WikiPedia would be allowed.
It may seem a bit ridiculous, with that long explanation, but I really think it would work and if its done in the right way it could actually have artistic merit.