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Re: <nettime> what makes a notable life? [wikipedia]
Alex Halavais on Sat, 9 May 2009 14:40:38 +0200 (CEST)


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Re: <nettime> what makes a notable life? [wikipedia]


I'll begin by pointing out a recent article in Le Monde Diplomatique
on this topic:

http://mondediplo.com/2009/05/15wikipedia

In that article, I am noted as unnotable and yet my brief profile has
survived a recent deletion nomination.

I won't defend the use of mass media mentions as a metric of
notability, or the collective judgment of Wikipedians. (And while this
discussion has referred to Google News, we're really talking about
mentions in mass media outlets.) I hear complaints, but not proposed
solutions. I suppose there are two possible solutions:

First, they could not delete any profile. However, the value of
Wikipedia comes not only in its openness. Frankly, an entirely open
wiki, in which nothing is deleted, is not of as much *practical*
value, though it is far from valueless. (See everything2.)

Second, they could use some other criteria for determining notability.
An earlier post suggests that they should turn the decision over to
those considered experts in new media art. Of course, what makes
Wikipedia interesting is its *relative* rejection of such traditional
metrics of expertise. We are not supposed to trust it because of who
writes it, but because it reflects and refers to other publication
standards.

The publication standards it uses is peer-reviewed citation, or,
barring that, citation of material thought to be credible on the wider
web. Are there problems with this? Of course there are! Peer review is
entirely too fallible, and the same can certainly be said of
mainstream news. Both not only are capable of getting the facts wrong,
they may--as in the case of DJ Lotu5--not pay attention to the people
or topics we think are most salient. And so Wikipedia is vulnerable to
critique on these grounds and should be criticized.

However, I find such criticism to be less compelling without a
workable alternative being proposed. I won't touch NPOV, which--as an
earlier poster has suggested--is an oxymoron. But it is also a
pragmatic decision: some way of trying to muddle through to co-create
a useful text. If the aim is to change how Wikipedia works, this will
only be accomplished if a viable alternative process for selection of
biographies can be provided.

- Alex

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