The nature of Wikipedia is strange. As David Parry points out in his chapter “How Billie Jean King Became the Center of the Universe”, Wikipedia is basically the ultimate librocentralist dream- a book of the world (77). In his chapter Perry goes through the dynamics of the Wikipedia articles with respect to the network connectivity. In the latter half of the chapter he compares the grouping systems between Billie Jean King and Abraham Lincoln’s article, arguing that while Lincoln may be more historically significant, King is more important in regards to understanding the interconnections of information networks within Wikipedia.
This led me to think back to Jose Van Dijck’s analysis of Wikipedia and the principles that structure its function and place in the greater digital ecology. Especially within the section that detailed the bots that help administrate and bots that help to edit and coauthor articles, one thing that became clear was the consistency with respect to how a Wikipedia article is structured. Van Dijck notes that Rambot was designed to compile information on American cities, and that humans later came through and broke down the articles by the way actual composition (history, demographics, etc.).
Together, I conclude that the nature of Wikipedia is inherently strange. The focus on the refinement of an article can lead to various proclivities by way of the article compositions, which perhaps explained by King’s article outpaced Jesus’ in word count. In Wikipedia I can very readily see the forces that construct its make-up, from the highly refined details of American capitals, to the incredibly sparse paragraphs that describe specific species of chiton.
But the strangeness of wikipedia doesn’t come down to its administration, crowd management and funding model in the midst of an increasingly for-profit digital space, nor does it come the issues of librocentralism and the oddities of Bille Jean King.
For me, the consideration that other wikis and the wiki models thrive is what is strange. Wikipedia is designed as a source of pure information of the widest range of topics imaginable. As one can see from reading both Parry and Van Dijck, there is a great deal of structure and care taken to crafting wikipedia into a usual objective knowledge base. But even then, other specified wikias exist for more insular topics, namely in the gaming community. These gaming wikis illustrate a facet of the networked connections between digital information that neither author really treated, as it did not tie into their main arguments.
Essentially, wikipedia serves as a holding site for a great deal of information that is, in general, generalized. Other wikis and the wiki models cohabit a niche around wikipedia in which specific communities can model their site in a way to provide much more highly specialized information for the given topic.
What I’m saying is that we must not only consider how the “Big Dog” Wikipedia exists in the digital ecosystem, but how its influence and the wiki model as a whole is affecting the way that we process, seek and archive information in a more generalized sense.