In this piece in yesterday’s Globe, Ivor Tossell waxes intellectual on the cultural wasteland that is Wikipedia. He explains “wikigroaning,” the phenomenon experienced by self-righteous smartypantses like himself upon finding that one topic, “useless to everyone but a small coterie of fans,” has a longer Wikipedia entry than another topic of “genuine historical relevance.” His first example: that Lost character John Locke has a longer entry than the philosopher John Locke. And it’s all the fault of those pesky “crowdsourcing enthusiasts who tell us that in the 21st century, everything is better written by amateurs or crowds.”
Though he admits that he uses the site “every day,” the guy really seems to have a wiki-hangup. (Look, we made up a word—and we’re amateurs!) In this recent piece, Tossell gripes and grumbles about Penguin Books’ attempt to create a collaborative internet novel where anyone could write, edit, or delete as they pleased. Tossell claims that collaborative writing is an “artificial notion, a novelty act of the creative world”—of course the project turned out disastrously.
But is this sort of creative collaboration really a 21st century invention as Tossell suggests? Didn’t anyone else play childhood games involving taking turns writing paragraphs to create a story, or coming up with words to add to never-ending sentences? (Okay, maybe that last one is from a drinking game, but you get the point.) And what about Shakespeare? Many scholars believe that some of Shakespeare’s plays were collaborative efforts, as well as several of Da Vinci’s paintings. The collaborative process that Tossell finds so hopelessly lowbrow and pedestrian has likely been used by the greats for centuries.
And another thing. Tossell thinks Lost has a “small coterie of fans”? According to Wikipedia (Snap, yo!), Lost’s pilot episode gave ABC its strongest ratings since Who Wants to be a Millionaire, and the second season premiere drew over 23 million viewers. Additionally, a 2006 survey of twenty countries determined that Lost was the second most-watched TV show in the world, after CSI Miami.
But who knows if that’s even true.
Photos by Britannica.com and BuddyTV.com.