No-one Plays Alone (DiGRA/FDG 2016)
Cyberfetish and the World of Tomorrow

Deleted from the Wikipedia

Deleted StampLate last week, one of my students asked me what had happened to my Wikipedia page. I said I didn’t know, but upon investigation found that I had been deleted. Nine days after I announced Wikipedia Knows Nothing, a Wikipedia Czar called a tribunal, and within a week my page had been executed. While this could be a coincidence, after a decade of no interest in my page at all it certainly seems like a retaliatory gesture – and one, I might add, that would violate the values and policies of the Wikipedia if that were its motivation. In a brutal irony, it is this kind of abuse that Wikipedia Knows Nothing warns about, while maintaining the inherent value and potential of wikis as tools. It is far more a book against double blind peer review than against the Wikipedia, and given that the manuscript was available at the time for any reader to offer feedback on, the implications don’t look flattering for the masked Czar in question.

Now it may be that I am indeed no longer ‘Notable’, since Wikipedia has undergone considerable notability-inflation in the ten years since I was first declared ‘Notable’ in 2006. But it’s also apparent that the tribunal did not really take into account that notability is a disjunctive operation: the decision to delete was made by saying I didn’t meet the criteria for academic notability (which is an arguable, but defensible position). But I was originally declared notable for my creative work in games, which is a criteria that doesn’t appear to have been applied at all. Not to mention that I can’t shake the feeling that the ‘research’ done to establish my status was essentially a few quick Google searches. It must be asked: are the random people who happen to respond within a week the likely domain experts on an article? This implies that rather than the Wikipedia genuinely being something ‘anyone can edit’, the power to make lasting edits rests with those who edit daily… in that respect, the claim that ‘anyone can edit the Wikipedia’ is a bit like the claim that ‘anyone can become the Catholic Pope’.

Anyway, if you can have a government in exile, you can have a page of Wikipedia in exile – and here’s mine, simply entitled Wikipedia in Exile: Chris Bateman. I’m still not happy with this entry, alas. I waited five years between declared ‘Notable’ and getting any content – which I had to add myself (along with the self-awarded badge of shame this action required), and I just threw in everything that I thought would be good raw material for a future editor to prune, not realising that no-one would ever stop to give it a proper edit. That’s the trouble with a self-selective encyclopaedia: you get thousands of pages about minor Marvel comic characters, and myriad conspicuous gaps and elisions. In the eyes of the Wikipedia, I am now less significant than Bird-brain, who appeared in a minor role in just seven issues of The New Mutants between 1987 and 1988. That fact in itself is good for a chuckle.

Comments

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Hello Chris!

I wonder where you are going with this. By this I mean, what are the taxonomy of positions out there in terms of being able to manage open forums of knowledge? You have pointed a distinction between the people who edit wikipedia daily against the possibly casual wikipedia editor. Using your catholicism metaphor, the former camp are the clerical caste and the latter are the laity.

I suspect (not thinking exclusively wikipedia here) that there are other modalities at play. For example: corporate influence vs non corporate influence. An example in point would be the Wikia strain of encyclopaedias on fictional universes such as Harry Potter, Star Wars, Dragonball z etc.. These fonts of knowledge often have an advertising and revenue bent to them. With the Marvel owned properties, there is a weird thing about adhering to canonicity (particularly in Star Wars or distinguishing between MCU Marvel or 'Earth 616' Marvel). Wikis for fictional universes are for 'franchises' - that is, when we engage in trying to find out about Game of Thrones characters or or who was name dropped in the latest X-Men film; we are consumers of products and not active cultural agents (or at least there's a tension between the two.

There is another dimension at play in my view: the organisation (and editing) of knowledge (or articles, content etc.) being run and operated by humans (who have all sorts of issues epistemically and socially) against having it automated and run by analytics and other fancy API type machinery.

All the best,
Michael

Hi Michael,
Your comparison between Wikipedia's 'clerical caste' and 'laity' was indeed what I was alluding to there, although it was a throwaway remark, really, meant only to emphasise that the Wikipedia's public philosophy makes it sound like an egalitarian enterprise, which is a claim that is hard to square with its practices.

The tension you allude to between wiki users as 'consumers of products' and not 'active cultural agents' seems to me to relate to the Corporate Megatexts serial that I am running at the moment (and which will conclude in about 45 minutes time!). The consumer of products here is the end user of the values of custodianship. I wonder what it is that you allude to in the concept of an 'active cultural agent'... there's a slippery yet intriguing notion embedded in that phrase!

Regarding the tension between human operated and automated, I am firmly on the side of the humans here. Trivia aggregation cannot and should not be robot operated; to do so is to give the cultural power currently hoarded by the Wikipedia Czars directly to Google and other search engine companies (although either way, the US culture machine is clearly 'in charge'!). As I draw out in Wikipedia Knows Nothing, I am in full support of wikis as tools: my problem comes with the masking of identities, which I assert as fundamentally immoral. If you are not swamped, you are welcome to get the draft manuscript from me: I would welcome your feedback!

Many thanks for another thoughtful comment,

Chris.

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