a curious Yankee in Europe's court

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Wikipedia’s not just any old encyclopedia: James Bridle

Posted on the September 10th, 2010

In a blog post this week, James Bridle lays bare his optimism about humans and our doings. And this gutsy enthusiasm is a good and intelligent thing.

It’s not some pie-in-the-sky, be happy type of simpleton perspective. Bridle grounds his hope in close scrutiny of the systems we create, in particular publishing.

Bridle, a publisher and writer, is founder of the website booktwo.org. He describes the site’s focus as “the future of literature and the publishing industry”

Writing the recent post titled “On Wikipedia, Cultural Patrimony and Historiography” (Sept 6, 2010), Bridle reflects on a public talk he gave recently:

I talked about the Library of Alexandria, and the Yo La Long Dia, and the National Libraries of Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iraq—all examples of cultural destruction caused in part by neglect and willful disregard for our shared patrimony.

These losses, despite their horror, will always happen: but what can we do to mitigate and understand them? In a world obsessed with “facts”, a more nuanced comprehension of historical process would enable us to better weigh truth…

…I do believe that we’re building systems that allow us to do this better, and one of our responsibilities should be to design and architect those systems to make this explicit, and to educate.

The particular system that Bridle goes on to discuss is Wikipedia.

…for me, Wikipedia is a useful subset of the entire internet, and as such a subset of all human culture. It’s not only a resource for collating all human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we agree on, and what we cannot.

Read the full entry here.

(Found my way to Bridle’s post via the blog Bits at the New York Times)

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