Trapped in a web of meta-Wikipedia
by Jason Mittell — Middlebury College
May 06, 2009 – 22:42
I stumbled across this article via Google Alerts discussing the varying practices within Wikipedia. I discovered it because one of the examples it uses is… my Wikipedia entry:
Jason Mittell’s case is similar. His biography concludes with some quotes from a New York Times article in which he defended Wikipedia against the charge that it represented a threat to traditional knowledge: “I see it [Wikipedia] as an opportunity. What does that mean for traditional scholarship? Does [it] lose value?” While Mittell is a productive academic, he does not appear to have made a “significant impact” on the field or met any of the other notability criteria for academics outlined in Wikipedia. Mittell himself agrees with this assessment and attempted to have his page deleted, as “not notable enough” (he was not successful). He observes that notability is “much less absolute than Wikipedia claims: it’s more dependent on an editor’s opinion and judgment, especially for fringe pages like my own”. It seems some decisions about inclusion lie in the eye of the beholder and may also be determined by self-serving criteria.
I have been uncomfortable with my Wikipedia entry for awhile, partly because it’s sparse and unattended, but more because it seems to exist solely because I was quoted in the press about Wikipedia. Like the other case referenced of Alex Halavais (who self-blogged it as well), Wikipedians seem to have noticed us not for any scholarly notability, but because we’ve gone on the record defending Wikipedia. This is one of the key problems with Wikipedia: it reflects its own self-interests (and thus the interests of its active editors) much more than any seemingly “objective” measure of cultural importance. Thus people who talk about Wikipedia seem to qualify for some meta-notability.
While Alex’s entry has been labelled an “orphan” for its lack of connections to other entries, mine has been tagged for deletion – in large part because I asked it to be deleted two years ago! The discussion on my page is interesting, as the article about my Wikipedia entry has become a source to justify my inclusion on Wikipedia! I weighed in only to clarify my position on my own deletion, but this is obviously something for other people to debate and decide. So if you read my blog and care about Wikipedia, go on over to weigh in – and I’d be fine with you calling me non-notable! I just want to avoid being trapped in this nether world of being notable on Wikipedia for a very non-notable role in a debate over Wikipedia use at Middlebury.