“I cant belive a war started and Wikipedia sleeps”: Inter-textuality, cyberpower and the wackypedians

Gavin Stewart (University of Bedfordshire, UK)

The online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, has been widely criticised since its inception for its factual inaccuracies, for the fatuousness of its content and for its susceptibility to regular acts of online vandalism. Indeed, it is regarded as something of a joke by many commentators, who refer to it as the ‘wackypedia’. Nonetheless, the Wikipedia project has also been defended by scholars, such as Yochai Benkler, Cass R. Sunstein and Clay Shirky for its economic model, its institutional processes and the news value provided by the timeliness of its content. This paper will provide an microscopic account of the interplay of these key cultural forms; by providing a content analysis of the genesis and development of the ‘2008 South Ossetia war’ page set up on Wikipedia in August 2008 to impart information about the unfolding events in the region. It will seek to provide insight into the interchange between timeliness and objectivity played out in the text displayed on this Wikipedia article (and its associated history and talk pages) through concepts such as intertextuality and cyberpower. This paper will argue that the wikipedians discussed are performing an oddly post-modern form of news presentation. It will also argue that this form serves as a warning to advocates of an overtly technological approach to the institutions of the media.

Timing - Friday - Panel Session C1



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