Friday, February 04, 2011


February 3rd, 2011 12:38 pm
@TimothyBarrus, I am not familiar with your case, but the article is nicely cited with reliable sources. There is only one blog post cited, which is used to reference the opinion of the (notable) author of that blog. Unfortunately for you, you are best known for the coverage of your alleged hoax, and the article reflects that.
February 3rd, 2011 1:00 pm
@Elisa, Wikipedia is not a place to publish original research. If you are interested in the topic and there really is no documented information about it, you can conduct your own research and publish it in a journal or other scholarly outlet. And frankly, just because it isn't easy to quantify those effects does not mean that it can't be done: that is the role of the social scientist. There is nothing biased, traditionally or otherwise, in this type of rigorous scholarship.
Wikipedia needs  money. They’ve begun to reach the limits of what people are willing to post and professors STILL refuse to accept a wikipedia citation since they are often inaccurate and circular in their documentation.  Take a look at two comments from a recent article in the New York Times complaining about the statistical under-representation of women both in the subject and the behind-the-scenes operators at Wikipedia.
The comments are accumulating.  But I just want to turn some attention to “Chris,” an androgenous name for someone in Queens, where people live when they can’t afford Manhattan.  
Chris is not familiar with Tim’s “case,” has evidently never read any of his books, is not an expert on Native American literature -- much less the many labyrinthine and emotional issues of authenticity in relation to it, where the “hoax” accusation came from, or any of the relevant blogs -- including mine -- and vlogs -- including Tim’s.  But in his or her opinion the article is “nicely cited” with “reliable sources” -- which are the LA Weekly (the LA arm of the Village Voice) and Time magazine where there was a promotional squib by Sherman Alexie who was making an all-stops-out pitch for “Smoke Signals.”
Chris says to Tim,  “You are best known for the coverage of your alleged hoax.”  That’s it.  Maybe Chris and his little circle only know about the hoax and nothing else, but there’s much more out there, worldwide.  Chris’ definition of the world is himself (or herself) and people like her (or him).  If he knows a person’s reputation, then that’s enough.  Very small town junior high.
Next look at his instructions to Elisa:  “Wikipedia is not a place to publish original research.”  He instructs her to use the conventional means of becoming approved, which he takes to be reliable.  It is getting published in a journal “or other scholarly outlet.”   “. . .The role of the social scientist. There is nothing biased, traditionally or otherwise, in this type of rigorous scholarship.”   Clearly Chris is not keeping up.  These days “rigorous scholarship” in regard to ANY social science is being called into question.  PHYSICS is being called into question!
If I were guessing what Chris (male or female version) is like -- what his or her “reputation” was, I’d guess a low level of academic achievement but not in the field now.  Otherwise there would be far more awareness of the challenges these days, not least of which are the Foucaultian assault on authority.  Demographic and economic forces have just about dismantled the tenured prestige of people who have managed to run the gauntlet of previously certified experts who don’t care to be contradicted.  Wikipedia's concept is based on contempt for the recognized authorities -- turning to anonymous persons.
With more awareness of the eRevolution Chris might understand that the whole system of print journal, peer review, and editorial control is now being addled and closed down by online journals in specialized fields who allow (freely) instant feedback and correction by anyone who cares to read.  That’s where the real action is now -- not Wikipedia, which is for high school and junior college level inquirers.
So Chris’ attitude is that he knows everything there is to know about how the world works.  Where he is.  Among his sort.  At his level of accomplishment.  It’s a very slick media-constructed world.  He has no awareness of its constructed and unreal nature.
Once The New Yorker published a famous cartoon drawing of the United States that consisted of a huge Manhattan and then a country that dwindled away through the hinterlands until it bulged again on the California coast with LA and SF.  In Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in the window of a bookstore there was a very clever reversal -- a huge Saskatoon and far away, falling over the edge of the world, the tiny island of Manhattan.  
I think I could draw Valier to take up the page with everything else receding and that would be a fair depiction of Valier's natural xenophobia.  Valier IS in Wikipedia, but the entry was not written by anyone at all.  It is an aggregation of demographic facts from statistical surveys of small towns, mostly for governing and real estate purposes.  It does not cite any of the several blogs written here, not even mine.  (Whether that’s fortunate or unfortunate for me depends upon your definition of fortune.)
Chris thinks he knows all about Barrus, at least by reputation, yet resists knowing anything from the people who know him and work with him.  
Wikipedia includes an article about Bob Scriver, to whom I was married in the Sixties.  I wrote it and posted it.  Then they "annotated."  They note my blog about Bob ( as being by his “ex-wife.”  Not as a co-worker, writer, minister, teacher, etc.  None of my qualifications except that sneering “ex-wife.”  Does that tell you anything about the attitude towards women?  Wikipedia still thinks Bob Scriver is an Indian.  Isn’t that perpetrating a hoax?
Wikipedia is bourgeois, interested in re-establishing the Victorian world where those of the upper class hand down opinions and reputations, while always keeping alive a vigorous secret life behind the scenes that might not meet with approval if subjected to public scrutiny.  A sit com with this premise would be delectable.  
Although, that much interest in sex would be tiresome.  One can look up in Wikipedia all the sexual things that could not be found in either dictionary or encyclopedia when we were children and the authorities were in charge.  Where’s that fellow who was so scandalized by ants?  Hasn’t he looked up sexual parts and practices in Wikipedia?  The Victorian gentlemen have been busy there.  


Rebecca Clayton said...

I'm confused about the context of the two blocks of text at the beginning of your post. Are these emails? Comments on a blog?

Back when Wikipedia was new and I had some free time, I thought I would like to contribute to the project. I had expertise in several areas of biology and biochemistry, and I have professional (i.e. paid) experience in editing and proofreading, and I thought they needed me. A Free and Open Source encyclopedia sounded like a great thing to help build.

However, to be accepted as a trusted contributor, you had to jump through many hoops (similar to the hoops contributors to Open Source software projects like Linux) and be vetted for some unspecified period of time. I had spent twenty years building credibility as a researcher, and I just didn't feel like starting over building "cred" for the privilege of working for free.

Young software engineers can build their resumes working on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), but I don't see any similar professional reward for writing Wikipedia articles. That's why I'm surprised it's as good as it is.

The computer science, chemistry, biochemistry, and taxonomy articles are better than what you find in print reference books--a lot of people have done some quality, thankless, anonymous work there, and I wonder what motivates them.

My question is not "Why don't many women contribute to Wikipedia?" I wonder "What motivates so many men to contribute to Wikipedia?"

In a round-about way, that may explain why so many of the humanities articles are so poor. People who could write better articles are not motivated to join the Wikipedia "culture," which is structured like the software engineer "culture" of FOSS. There's no possible reward for them to join up, so you get articles on literature and art that are written by software engineers, who are already "trusted contributors."

prairie mary said...

My layout needs improving. The two blocks of text at the beginning were comments on the blog with the URL below, the one about not enough women on wikipedia. This person named "Chris" was very active in the comments and seemed typical of one sort of comment.

Your experience is fascinating. And typical.

Prairie Mary

Anonymous said...

I attempted to correct some material about Buffalo Bill Cody in Wiki after carefully studying and following the protocols for doing that. I had just finished a novel about him, and had a great deal of research at hand. The Wiki problems were twofold: some things weren't accurate, but there was also an overall sloppiness. A vast amount of space was devoted to his early life; his career as a showman was attenuated, and his distinguished military career barely mentioned. The entry needed a disciplined editing by someone experienced in handling encyclopedia entries. My attempts to rectify the problem failed: I was branded a "vandal" and barred from Wiki. I found other flat-out errors in material related to Cody. So much for that. Wiki is egalitarianism gone rotten. There is such a thing as competent, or expert, knowledge.