This is how the flame wars end, not on the web but on paper.
If journalism is the first draft of history, what does that make Wikipedia? The scribblings and etchings in the margins?
In the constant digital present that NewsFeed exists in, it can be hard to remember the history of our shifting information culture. Everything is so now now. But, as technology writer James Bridle argues, there is value in looking back, in seeing the push and pull of ideas and information that led us to where we are.
To illustrate his theories, Bridle made a fascinating visual aid: a 12-volume compendium of every edit made to the Wikipedia entry for the Iraq War between December 2004 and November 2009. As Bridle described the project:
“It contains arguments over numbers, differences of opinion on relevance and political standpoints, and frequent moments when someone erases the whole thing and just writes ‘Saddam Hussein was a dickhead.’
“This is historiography. This is what culture actually looks like: a process of argument, of dissenting and accreting opinion, of gradual and not always correct codification.”
The books presumedly only exist in one copy, so they are not for sale. Still, NewsFeed agrees with Bridle when he says, “This is important. This is the process we have to go through to understand history.”
In fact, we like his theories so much we’ll even give him this last paragraph. From his talk introducing the project at this year’s dConstruct conference:
“The deluge of information had always been there. We’re just starting to understand it now. And even if we don’t understand it, we can at least build representations. If we don’t understand the numbers, we can understand that these numbers exist.”