Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Wiki-truth

Yesterday at work, an older lady came to pick up a movie on reserve for her neighbor. She didn't have her neighbor's library card so I couldn't let her take it. She pleaded with me, saying her friend was downstairs, but had just gotten surgery and she didn't want her to come up in that condition. I called her bluff and asked her to bring her friend's identification card. Usually, when you do that, they go away and don't return. But the older lady did and she had her friend's driver's license with her. It took me a while to understand that this neighbor had been...neighborly. I let her take the movie just because she called MY bluff. It's sad that I don't believe in that sort of act anymore. 

The point is that we are sometimes asked to bend the rules and make exceptions whenever we deem it necessary. It is a library, not a military outpost, and we do try to cater to the community's needs. But the rules are there if we need to reference them. Could you imagine how difficult it would be to do our jobs if the rules weren't there? It would be a chaos of personal rules, sometimes conflicting with the personal rules of others. 

Truth would be whatever you wanted it to be at that time. I like to call that, wiki-truth, or malleable knowledge anyone can alter. 

***

I took down the post I did on The Urban Fantasy. It was a reaction to reading a more impressive article on the subject by Carrie Vaughn she posted on her blog. I disagreed with some of the points she makes, but not all. And she did shed light on some mysteries. But the one thing that struck me the most was that she delivers the information with such authority that it seems correct. She has what I've long tried to acquire: An author's voice. It is definitive, cool, calculated. It also does not arouse conflict; it is stately. When I think of authors of old speaking to classes of would-be authors, I picture her voice in that article. Authors are supposed to be the authorities on the literary world and she presents that image. 

My post on Urban Fantasy was more bitching than anything. It read like a blog post, not like the article of an author of Urban Fantasy. So, I took it down. And yes, I will rewrite it and make it as long and as well thought out--I hope to make the post on "show, don't tell" look primitive.

But to do that, I will go back to what Fantasy is. And then approach Contemporary Fantasy. And only then, will I talk about Urban Fantasy. When I get done with that, I will go to wikipedia and use their own rules against them. 

I'm going to delete that article they have on Urban Fantasy and replace it with scholarly information others can rely on. And if the people who wrote the article that's up now return and edit the information I put up, then I'll just re-edit it. There will come a point where if they want to edit my work, they will have to do their homework. Eventually they'll get tired and they'll move on to other things. 

So, why bother doing all of that when I can write stories? Because it's what I'm passionate about. Wikipedia is a good idea--an encyclopedia everyone can use for free. But in the hands of less-than-capable people, a good idea becomes a bad idea, a harmful idea. Steven Colbert proved this when he had his viewers alter the wikipedia article on elephants to show that African elephant numbers are actually going up (which is not true). What if someone else altered another article in the same fashion out of malice? Or what if someone who only has a half-understanding of the subject-matter alters articles, not out of malice but because they genuinely believe that what they think is the truth? 

What do you need to alter wikipedia articles? I created an account with a pseudonym. I could have altered the Urban Fantasy article yesterday. 

To create a reliable knowledge base takes time, a lot of time, and expertise. Because no one is paying wikipedia contributors, it is volunteer work. It is necessary volunteer work, though. It is necessary to do away with wiki-truth




LC