These notes are on the matter of Wikipedia. I’m only asking, but isn’t it time the press no longer kowtowed to Jimmy Wales and his cult-like enterprise, Wikipedia. Wales and his creation receive the deference of a saint or a newly crowned king. His treatment in the press is as if he were the founder of a “good” cult, a useful cult, and, fortunately, not one that would inflict mass suicide on its members. Or would it?
In my sporadic and thankfully infrequent use of the site, I find the style turgid, the system difficult to navigate and mostly the words an aggregation of information rather than anything new or exciting. Those elements only serve to further convince me that there are many other ways of finding information. Call me old-fashioned, but I would rather go to the source myself than put my trust in people whose bona fides are questionable at best, and often intellectually weak. I find it difficult to trust a 24 year old whose only strength may be in finding a missing comma and whose only ability is to maneuver his or her way onto the Wikipedia site as well as the Web. Essentially, I have a hard time trusting anyone without proper academic or life credentials.
Recently I turned to Wikipedia to see what it said about Post Modernism, a term now loosely applied to anything anyone thinks is new, and thus beyond the limits of this time or moment we are now living in. In simple terms, post modernism is that which is against modernism, or beyond modernism – whatever that is. My reading of the term says that how we live, think and act today is dreary, lacking in depth, without a future. Is the future now? Is the future coming at the speed of light as I type on my computer keyboard? Is the future in the immediate past as the words spill onto the page? I confess that I do not know. Nor do I think the Wikipedia entry helps clarify the meaning of post modernism. It is a mistake to think we can see into the future when we have enough to do battening down the hatches here in the present – which, incidentally just passed as you read the sentence.
I find the pages on Wikipedia a mess. Though the site liberally quotes seemingly every philosopher even remotely connected to the idea of post modernism and despite all the academic-looking citations, the definitions are still vague, as if the writers are afraid to commit. Surprisingly, the site with its many references, reads as if a copycat version of a real encyclopedia, actually looking and feeling encyclopedic, and the very thing Wikipedia stands against. The writing lacks vigor and is not much help in understanding the term nor how it affects and impacts thought today, especially when used in connection with new media. I can only imagine its pages are purposefully dense. The denser they are, the more difficult it is to critique the mess they are.
After reading page after page, I came away thinking the writing weak, the definitions unclear, and with many questions that still needed answers. I felt that all the hands involved with the section were unsteady. I am betting they were many, but the powers that run Wikipedia will never let us know how many people it took to create a part. Needless to say, I went elsewhere to continue my research and I am glad I did. I almost found myself seeking my answer in a book of mythological terms, feeling that at least in that kind of work I would discover something with proper age on it that would make sense.
Every entry in Wikipedia reads the same, looks the same, and feels the same. Laying out facts and then piling them one atop the other does not make an encyclopedia. I am not an apologist for the Encyclopedia Britannica or any other similar work. These books also lack style. Style should count for something. Wikipedia pieces uniformly lack style. They are high on what passes for substance – the piling on of purported facts – that only makes for joyless reading. It should not be too much to ask for an entertaining read now and then even when seeking information about something such as the string theory in physics.
Ease of reading, comfort of reading, and the joy of reading should all play a part as you seek information. But maybe this is not what Jimmy Wales and his ilk want. Lacking style means a sameness, something akin to the Cold War days in East Germany when everything behind The Wall was gray, where individuality had no place in life and thought, in heart and mind. With the continuing assault on intellectualism by Wikipedia, there can be only one conclusion: academic credentials count for little or nothing in this brave new world of the anonymous contributor to knowledge.