Sinbad is not dead either.

March 16, 2007 at 10:11 pm (celebrities, theory, web 2.0)

The web allows for some remarkable meta-experiences—today, several people experienced a happy bout of ‘hey-remember-that-guy-now-he’s-dead!’ forwarding when they discovered that comedian Sinbad had died of a heart attack. Unfortunately, Sinbad was not dead—he, or rather, his biography, was the victim of a prank on wikipedia.

The wording used to describe this act (by wikipedia spokesperson Sandra Ordonez) was “vandalized”—which got me thinking—can you really vandalize that which is truly not there? In proper Web 2.0 fashion, wikipedia is one part of a constantly shifting database, growing, changing, inhabited by a variety of people; the web is a society, complete with criminals. And like it or not, we entered into a social contract with the web, giving it assumed power.

But is our Rousseau-like democratization of media helping or harming us? In this case, it spurred the spread of misinformation—after all, are we more likely to trust a news article from cnn.com or from wikipedia? As I’ve said before, this democratization can be helpful—you can communicate with people you would have never had the opportunity meet before, enabling an impossible-to-measure exchange of ideas. But this exchange requires trust, and faith that those who are doing as you do (contributing) will follow the Golden Rule.

Just a reflection on how those very old systems of power still remain—but somehow I don’t think that overthrowing the web is an option. Like most systems, it requires a certain amount of blind faith and skepticism.

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1 Comment

  1. Paul McNamara said,

    Sinbad: Wikipedia’s worst bad yet … Some chucklehead vandalizes Wikipedia and a C-list celeb becomes “famous.” There ought to be a law.
    http://www.networkworld.com/community/?q=node/12574

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