Day: March 15, 2010
Shapiro on Wikipedia
Couple of highlights from this interview with Alan N. Shapiro, in connection with an upcoming Geert Lovink-organized conference on the topic of Wikipedia:
[L]ike a lot of people, I think that Wikipedia could be improved. Community consensus about what constitutes legitimate-established knowledge is important, but so are the original insights of the individual scholar who has worked more deeply and insightfully on a particular subject than anyone else. A more sophisticated model for balancing these two contributory streams needs to be developed. This won't be easy. Right now consensus is tending to suppress the understanding of the really advanced scholar. Many Wikipedia articles are reproducing accepted clichés. This is related also to the tendency to make a fetish of information as opposed to knowledge. What is mere information and what is real knowledge? To get beyond the clichés, we need something like a renewed Marxist ideology critique. Gustave Flaubert did this very well about 140 years ago in his "Dictionary of Accepted Ideas." We don't need to compile a new "Dictionary of Accepted Ideas," because Wikipedia, considering one major element of its complex cultural constellation, already is such a dictionary.
I have never understood why unpaid work of any kind, from housework to programming, could be regarded by anyone as utopian. Money is a reality, it's based on a rational system, albeit an economic system that needs to be radically improved. Artists, creators, intellectuals, nurses, dancers, activists, under-employed academics and scientists, down-and-outers, we all need to get paid. Let's focus our efforts on figuring out how to fight for our rights to prosperity, not accept poverty. Live long and prosper, Spock said. To voluntarily work without pay is a system of self-exploitation and self-surveillance. I love the book The Simulation of Surveillance by William Bogard. We need to go beyond Foucault-, Orwell-, and Huxley-inspired models of how contemporary quasi-totalitarian systems of social control work. Individual freedom right now is in big trouble. American hyper-reality, hyper-work, hyper-consumerism, hyper-communication, and hyper-eating today strike me in so many aspects as being systems of mutual- and self-surveillance. Ask anyone in authority or performing any official job anywhere in America any question, and you will always get a no before you get a yes. The current system of ubiquitous cell phones is also a system of mutual- and self-surveillance. My friends, family, and co-workers want me to permanently account for myself. Where am I, what am I doing, and what am I thinking? And I'm asking myself the same disciplinary questions. We don't need Big Brother anymore, since we are all keeping tabs on ourselves and each other.
Shapiro has been on a roll lately, especially in Europe. I first encountered him through his theoretical essays that "read Star Trek against Star Trek" (close comparison of individual episodes against the tenets of the Star Trek Industry), which stood out from the Ctheory context where they originally appeared. Odd that he only did two essays for them--possibly because Star Trek wasn't as "cool" for academics as Blade Runner, even though it has arguably far greater impact on the culture, since it is watched and enjoyed by the engineers and techies who make all our stuff. (That is a point Shapiro explored in his book, Star Trek: Technologies of Disappearance, which is gradually building a rep in both the science fiction and Baudrillard studies communities.)
Shapiro is using Wikipedia subversively: his "user page" is a bio as detailed and useful as a "front end" Wikipedia page.
Update: Corrected spelling of Ctheory (took out hyphen).
Update 2: He now has a "real" Wikipedia page.
BBC documentary about the reclusive creator of Spider-Man (oops, co-creator) and Doctor Strange.
7-part YouTube starts here.
Ditko's '70s creation "Mr. A" (an Ayn Randian vigilante) was the inspiration for Alan Moore's Rorschach (never knew that--but wow). Moore is interviewed extensively in the documentary and shares a great story and poem about Mr. A.