Examining “Wikiology”: WikipediaWikipedia-logo.png, Cultural Memory, and Virtual Communities

Ned Prutzer

1. Introduction

Since its launch, Wikipedia has been a cultural pressure point in the age of new media. While some scholars point to Wikipedia’s potential as a semantic database, other articles examine how it problematizes cultural notions of authorship. Aside from the controversies surrounding the site, Wikipedia also provides a fascinating arena to study networked knowledge and online communities. Though debates over its reliability often obfuscate these two, Wikipedia’s strengths in both areas are perhaps among its most culturally significant features. Furthermore, Wikipedia’s evolving community structures promote a participatory culture preserving cultural memory in the age of new media, a function that, while discounted by popular media representations of the site, exposes knowledge as a networked, collaborative project.

2. Literature Review

television-static450x337.jpgIn Here Comes Everybody, Shirky (2008) discusses the growth of Wikipedia as evidence of the rise in “expressive capability” that the internet has provided. Just as Walter Benjamin points out that the photograph transformed our conceptualizations of art (Debray, 1999), so too has the evolution of the wiki form in Shirky’s eyes changed our conceptions of knowledge from individualized to consensus-bound. Moreover, in applying Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Message to Wikipedia and Shirky’s views, the real message Wikipedia conveys is that knowledge is a collaborative project, and that user-maintained collaboration can thrive with minimal institutional interference.

Thinking along these lines about new media and technology puts the focus back on how technology is shaped by the interplay of people, regulations, and cultural forces. The appropriation of prior artistic and communication forms in new media and new technology, as Bolter and Grusin (2000) elucidate, illuminates the societal relations behind new technological developments. Wikipedia provides a great example of this through the appropriations of old (the encyclopedia) and the new (wiki) to produce a new decentralized means of collaboration and knowledge. The wiki form enables any Wikipedian to modify a massive pool of content (Capocci, Servedio, Colaiori, Buriol, Donato, Leonardi, & Caldarelli, 2006). This draws heavily from the form bringing a “reduction in transaction costs,” serving “as a catalyst for the development of the community. In turn, these reduced transaction costs means that there is full exploitation of massive collaboration economies” (Ciffolilli, 2003, “At the source of the boom,” para. 3). As such, even aside from the benefits of the form’s architecture, wikis provide access to a range of hyperlinked content due to the collaborative user environment resulting from Wikipedia’s rejection of a formal, institution-oriented process.

In short, Wikipedia is the result of an evolving media ecology and knowledge economy, not the cause of it. In this economic structure, virtual communities are the base unit, and Wikipedia’s community is no exception (Ciffolilli, 2003). As such, this new economy presents avenues that Wikipedia has not even begun to explore fully. Notions of the semantic web, for instance, present an area that Wikipedia has made strides in yet still has room to strengthen. Such insights are often lost in foundationalist rhetoric, alluding to the potential of an enduring human desire to reach “objective knowledge,” surrounding Wikipedia (Marx, 1994).

2.1 The Semantic Web and Cultural Memory

In their semantic research on Wikipedia, Holloway, Božčiević, and Börner (2007) point to the role the site’s intellectual property (IP) policy plays in semantic portrayals of Wikipedia. They analyze the original IP framework prompting the site’s success:

Wikipedia licenses its text under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Free licenses, first intended for software, appeared in 1984, allowing anyone to use computer applications, inspect and modify their source code, and distribute them without limitation . . . . GDFL abolishes individual authorship of articles, leveling the playing field for all contributors, and helps create a sense of shared content ownership by the community (“Licensing for Collaboration, para. 1).

Given this, Wikipedia’s renouncing of traditional authorship conceptualizations was codified into its IP from the start. Once Wikipedia’s IP evolved with their Creative Commons license, this rejection was extended further, given the “some rights reserved” credo of Creative Commons licenses (“History,” 2011). Due to this structure, other sites can, without consent, appropriate Wikipedia’s content, giving rise in part to its popularity (Holloway et al., 2007). The copyright policy is explicitly stated on Wikipedia for easy access.
Wikipedia's relaxed copyright stance through Creative Commons has made its content ubiquitous and enables the site to operate on a higher level of meaning, justifying Wikipedia’s envisioned role by scholars as major players in the shift toward the semantic web. Semantic research employing Wikipedia shows that in comparison to the Open Directory Project (ODP), “the largest web directory to date” (Gabrilovich & Markovitch, 2007, p. 1608), “Wikipedia-based semantic interpretation is superior to that of the ODP-based one” (Gabrilovich & Markovitch, 2007, p. 1609). Such abilities give Wikipedia, if modified, the potential to become a comprehensive semantic database unmatched in scope.
And that's just the featured articles.

But the semantic web itself is an ideal, an unfinalizable end, because meaning by definition evolves. Wikipedia, in turn, matches that ideal perfectly – it will always be an unfinalizable medium given the unfinalizable nature of Wikipedian content.
With this in mind, contrary to popular sentiment, Wikipedia’s structures of authority are evolving according to its semantic strive, which could certainly make it well-suited for those behind the ideal of the semantic web. Wikipedia’s charm as an excellent hub for participatory journalism is significant in this process; Lih (2004), in fact, concluded it was the largest such hub in 2004. His finding, of course, predates newer participatory journalism avenues like Twitter, but shows the site is popular for such activity. With this distinction, due to the nebulous nature of participatory journalism, Wikipedia’s projected semantic function becomes, more broadly, one of cultural memory.

Born out of archaeological study, cultural memory unifies people around shared identities and knowledge, leading to singular, agreed-upon perspectives toward past events (Holtorf). Given that virtual communities are the units of networked knowledge in the new media age, one could easily argue that contemporary consensus-driven mechanisms of knowledge like Wikipedia are becoming critical to cultural memory’s operations. Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, himself was influenced by Friedrich Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society,” which advocates for consensus-bound knowledge in light of one’s knowledge being intrinsically partial, in his approach to the open source movement (Schiff, 2006).

Cultural memory, then, intervenes in this precise process of making memory whole. Wikipedia, as an aggregate site of participatory journalism, becomes significant in cultural memory’s operations. It allows for collaboration amongst users in its pages to gather different sources and perspectives in realizing the goal of a consensus interpretation. This resonates with Lotman’s work. He envisioned a network of cultural meanings wherein the order of nodes influences what the reciprocal relation between ritual and culture yields (Lotman, 1978). Through these dynamics, texts surface as the product of cultural transformations (Agger, 1999). When considering Wikipedia as a product of a community of practice, Lotman’s insights can explicate the cultural resonance of Wikipedia. Wikipedia demystifies the relations by which knowledge is produced, by consensus, in making the nodes, the users themselves, more apparent, inviting interaction between them and creating a community, Wikipedians, with standardized norms and practices.

Given Wikipedia’s popularity, with 36% of American adult online users found to consult Wikipedia in a 2007 study, Wikipedia's pages then become part of a feedback loop due to this re-envisioning of knowledge (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2007). Pages, accordingly, are in constant flux to accommodate new facts, perspectives, and events while simultaneously being a sought-after reference for given topics at that given moment in time. Hence, partly due to Wikipedia’s temporal advantages, it could be claimed that Wikipedia is surpassing the consortium of cultural institutions typically vested with the tasks of cultural memory. As Manovich (2003) argues, new media, rather than the prototypical standby of traditional art, is at the forefront of cultural creativity. Certainly, given Wikipedia’s community and accuracy, deemed to be higher than that of Britannica, it is feasible to extend this argument toward Wikipedia’s favor (Gabrilovich & Markovitch, 2007).

In returning to Wikipedia’s IP framework, the use of the site’s content then goes back to institutional and cultural influences propelling Wikipedia. To take a mediological approach, the consortium of cultural institutions is arguably a major player in the popularity of Wikipedia’s content. The rise of Creative Commons licensing is indebted to educators and students from prestigious universities, seen in the work of Duke University’s Center for Public Domain, the Stanford Law School Center for Internet and Society, and Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society in establishing it (“History,” 2011). As such, Wikipedia is more accurately an evolution from educational and cultural memory institutions, rather than a threat to them or the knowledge they house. It is this precise dynamic that viral popular media critiques of Wikipedia often either misunderstand or simply ignore.

2.2 Applicability to Criticisms of Wikipedia

In spite of Wikipedia's cultural memory function, critics of Wikipedia, in
countering its champions who herald its egalitarianism, contend its wikipedia-blog-week-4.jpgarticles are disorganized and defective due to an influx of authors, inviting bias and misrepresentation (Weingarten & Frost). However, the very success of Wikipedia, alongside institutional endorsement of its liberal copyright stance, stems from changing views of authorship that preceded it. The open source movement, led by Richard Stallman and Linus Torvalds creating the Free Software Foundation and the Linux operating system, respectively, exemplified the freedom in communities of knowledge and cooperation years before Wikipedia (Bryant, 2006). In the beginning stages of this era, WELL’s countercultural air also demonstrated notions of authorship becoming less rigid. Even in the sciences, there has been a steady increase in multi-authored research articles (Voss, 2005). Ultimately, participatory cultures were fueled by such global views of authorship that “paved the way for the early embrace, quick adoption, and diverse use of [new media] platforms” like Wikipedia (Jenkins, 2007, para. 3).
The rise of said cultures disrupts Foucault’s astute ties between authors and their oeuvres in popular discourse. With wiki writing, authorship is valued less than the work behind the composition, and as such becomes more of an abstraction (Weingarten & Frost, 2011). Moreover, despite the hesitations of various vocal critics in deeming Wikipedia’s content reliable, “72 news outlets cited, quoted or referred to Wikipedia in the English language “press” (many were Internet and television sites) from January 2003 to March 2004” including the online version of The Daily Telegraph, referencing Wikipedia 41 times during that time frame (Lih, 2004, p. 12). Such use of Wikipedia's content displays how, in spite of critics’ reluctance, in spite of critics’ reluctance, the Wikipedian community, a participatory culture of knowledge accepted even by prominent journalism outlets, shapes historical narrations.

In this cultural memory operation, Wikipedia becomes “part of an open and changing network of opportunities,” wherein “the content of any particular article is less to the point than how it fits into the network of articles and other information to which it is linked.” (Campbell). This is where Actor-Network Theory (ANT), extending the study of semiotics to account for signs and knowledge sustaining links, comes in (Latour). As such, knowledge becomes a communal project, a matter of distribution and interaction dictated by the form through which it is presented (Law, 2003). In this regard, Benkler asserts that such collaborative projects signify a new order of organization, with said systems being predicated in part on regulations and conflicts (Viégas, Wattenberg, & McKeon, 2007). The Wikipedian community effectively exemplifies this new order; the network and its internal structures make the site’s successful coordination possible.

2.3 Wikipedians: A Community of Structure (and Stricture)

To facilitate this collaboration, there are various ever-changing structures of the Wikipedia site and its community meant to complement and preserve Wikipedia’s cultural memory function. In their case study, Viégas et al., (2007) note the Featured Article (FA) editorial process as a prime example. In doing so, perhaps their most poignant insight is that in regards to this process, “the criteria have evolved so much that over 200 of the early FAs have been demoted because they do not meet current FA criteria” (Viégas et al., 2007, “Case Study: Featured Articles,” para. 4). The procedure itself, lasting about five days and showing how governance is central to the Wikipedian community, involves FA Directors, Wikipedians (serving either as reviewers or voters), and most importantly, templates (a piece of wiki code that creates a visual marker—often a text box with a different background color from that of normal text”) that indicate what stage of the process the article is in how those involved feel about the article (Viégas et al., 2007, “Workflow Markers: Templates,” para. 1). In sum, the process is decentralized, yet formal, collaborative and effective (Viégas et. al., 2007). It displays the propensity of the Wikipedian community to self-govern. Since Wikipedia hosts various dynamic practices maintained by the Wikipedians themselves, who also have powers over the rules overseeing such processes, Wikipedia sets forth a new brand of institutional structure driven by the collaboration and choice (Viégas et al., 2007).

Of course, this only illuminates one segment of Wikipedian activity; the actual work of constructing Wikipedia articles can be even more laborious. Particularly, Wikipedians often grapple with the “institutional authority” that admins, endowed with the power to “ban IP addresses and permanently delete pages and their history,” wield (Ciffolilli, 2003, “Technology of social organization in Wikipedia,” para. 7). Aside from possibly Wikipedia’s current inability to fully realize its potential as a semantic database, admins’ authority is perhaps the site’s biggest flaw. There is also a clear community within the community inherent in Wikipedia, as 90% of Wikipedians contribute little to the site’s overall content (Elias, 2008).

Yet all of these structures, rather than constrain expression, ensure the continued creation of Wikipedia content. The wiki form itself, in demystifying how knowledge is networked, has much to do with this. As Lih (2004) explicates, "Because wikis provide the ability to track the status of articles, review individual changes, and discuss issues, they function as social software,acting to foster . . . collaboration with other users. A wiki also tracks and stores every version of an article edited, so no operation is ever permanently destructive” (p. 4). This function not only allows for detailed archives of pages' prior versions, it also creates a network of information through Wikipedia’s hypertext that enables users to find new articles to read through each Wikipedia article” (Voss, 2005). Furthermore, this interrelatedness distinguishes Wikipedia from the prototypical site structure in that “the content of an article can be fully understood by visiting a connected path along the network” (Capocci et al, 2006, p. 2). In this network, just as the author function means less than the collaborative effort behind articles, contributions mean less than the interrelatedness of the articles (Campbell, 2009). Accordingly, the collective labor of the Wikipedian community, fueled by evolving structures that match the ever-evolving nature of its work, ultimately produces this interrelated network of knowledge.

3. Representations of Wikipedia in Pop Culture

Despite this insight, everyday discourses surrounding Wikipedia tend to ignore much of the site’s genuine function as a collaborative community of cultural memory. They also, largely, neglect admitting its exemplar of networked knowledge, hiding it beneath criticisms of unreliability and “information overload.” Moreover, such views attack Wikipedia’s sophisticated community structures by overdramatizing the site’s propensity for conflict. A simple YouTube search for Wikipedia yields several media misrepresentations of Wikipedia’s content, operation, and value. Four such results are particularly noteworthy.

3.1 Michael Scott

The first is a clip from The Office featuring the main character, Michael, discussing what he thinks of Wikipedia as he asserts, “Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject, so you know you are getting the best possible information.” Of course, much of the humor of the clip is encoded from the start. Though already fairly obvious, the sarcasm the show seeks to convey in the clip is even more easily detectable due to the audience’s awareness of Michael’s general ineptitude. Given that, there remain several flaws in Michael’s argument as evidenced by the literature on Wikipedia. The first is that knowledge is networked. There is the possibility of a Wikipedia entry being flawed due to amateur knowledge, but the fact does remain that objective, finalized knowledge does not exist, matching romanticized notions of the semantic web. Wikipedia, as an open system, de-blackboxes just that. The worth of closed systems like Britannica, which, as previously mentioned, is comparable in quality to Wikipedia, lies in avoiding such debates. They conceal the relations of knowledge they present. In revealing these relations, Wikipedia presents the ability to backtrack edits and trace misinformation to the source. Hence lies the dilemma in criticizing Wikipedia for being accessible and multiauthored.

The second flaw lies in the complete ignorance of Wikipedia’s constraining structures. Going back to Shirky’s main contention on how Wikipedia maintains its success, the drive of devoted Wikipedians to ensuring a quality product is quite strong. That drive is further reflected not only in, as is by now widely known, how difficult it can be to vandalize Wikipedia (though, of course, it can and does happen from time to time), but also in how difficult it can be to improve articles to begin with. This is especially the case with novice Wikipedians, who at times lack the social capital in the Wikipedian community needed to enact significant change. For instance, a good example of this at work lies in the site’s Edit Filters/False Positives/Reportspage. On this page, Wikipedians can voice their problems with admin or bot interference in submitting their edits. Not only does the false positive page show that there are dedicated admins at work ensuring the quality of Wikipedia as best as possible, it also proves that there can be legitimate difficulties to posting Wikipedia content. The view, then, that anyone can post anything to the site is very reductive.

For instance, in the screenshot below, two edits that had been removed for serious violations of Wikipedia’s terms are justified by two different admins after the removals of said edits were reported by the Wikipedians who made them. Conversely, the second screenshot shows a false positive report I made over my first significant edit to the site. I felt my contribution was not in violation of any terms and were wrongfully rejected. As such, the second featured screenshot shows that, given my recent entrance into the community at the time, it was simply a matter of making more edits before posting such a large contribution, as elucidated by an admin who informed me of this on my talk page. This, first off, illuminates the self-monitoring capabilities inherent in the network and made possible by unveiling relationships of knowledge. But, perhaps more importantly, it evidences how the community can act as a support system, sustaining itself by showing new members how to work through the site’s strictures and build their own reputation successfully. In doing so, the community effectively sets its own IP and style rules based on its vision of how we should share knowledge and recollect. As such, the False Positives page exemplifies how Wikipedia’s cultural memory function is sustained by the community’s conversations and collaboration. Therefore, Wikipedia’s dialogic presentation of knowledge, as pages are never final and are open to Wikipedians’ concerns, matches the dialogic nature of cultural memory as well. This, too, is another glaring omission in how Wikipedia is discussed in popular media, evident in the "Professor Wikipedia" sketch.

3.2 Professor Wikipedia

wikipedia-professor.jpg“Professor Wikipedia,” a popular comedic bit from CollegeHumor, parodies the processes behind Wikipedia, presenting several "consequences" of its use. One of the two most overt claims that the video makes is that Wikipedia’s links to additional content are random and nonsensical, seen in one instance in how Professor Wikipedia relates Ryan Seacrest to chemistry. The second is that its content, easily manipulated and vandalized given the students’ insertion of “anus” into the lecture and disagreements over dates, is trivial, evident in the Professor’s comprehensive list of the Star Wars trilogy cosmetics artists. It is worth noting that some points the video makes are accurate: pages about people who are not deemed notable by the Wikipedia community, for instance, are often pulled, articles indeed can be saturated with information that, when articles are poorly organized, can frustrate users, and donations are sought by Wikipedia despite its constant branding as a free online encyclopedia. Having said that, the overarching error in CollegeHumor’s portrayal is that it completely rejects the notion of Wikipedia as a community of users, a network of knowledge, and a culture in its own right. Their representation ignores sophisticated procedures like the FA selection process and the false positives page, proof of Wikipedian’s self-regulating community. CollegeHumor casts them aside to portray Wikipedia as an arena of chaos. This mirrors the authorship criticism that shrouds Wikipedia in some scholarly circles, which is likewise unfounded.

CollegeHumor’s depiction is best refuted through Wikipedia’s participatory journalism network, originating from its collaborative community. To illuminate this, in returning to YouTube, Wikipedia time lapses reveal what Wikipedia offers as a unique center of participatory journalism. Time lapses visually represent how articles transform over a given period of time. They collect archived versions of the articles and create an animation displaying them in chronological order. This returns to how invaluable Wikipedia’s page histories are in charting how perceptions of concepts or events may have changed over time. As such, when considering breaking news, such a feature can be monumental when analyzing events after they have unfolded. Covering live events is just one example of how multiauthorship can be pragmatic and effective. Moreover, recording versions of the page as events progress leaves the narrative open for analytic conversation, leaving a sample of edits to revert back to if necessary. As such, Wikipedia clearly hosts a community cataloguing the trajectories of historical narratives. In doing so, it accounts for the dialogic nature of cultural memory. Wiki architecture, in functioning as social software, makes material archives of these community conversations possible. Given this, CollegeHumor’s portrait of Wikipedia as an ineffable, random knowledge resource disregards the same structures that Michael Scott ignores and omits the benefits of networked knowledge for live news.

3.3 Eddie Izzard

Eddie Izzard’s stand-up comedy bit on Wikipedia represents similar misunderstandings on how Wikipedia maintains itself. Just like in The Office clip, the satire's sarcasm reveals how traditional conceptualizations of authorship bog widespread acceptance of Wikipedia’s content. In this regard, Izzard imagines an impoverished, torch-wielding Mr. and Mrs. Wikipedia who run the site. His oversight symbolizes the general ignorance of Wikipedia’s mediological framework, a critical part of how Wikipedia has become a cultural memory hub. Additionally, just like Professor Wikipedia, it resonates with fears of information overload, rejecting Wikipedia’s potential as a semantic database despite that very potential being affirmed by academic research. Accordingly, Izzard argues that in reading the Wikipedia page for spoons, “you [would] probably get bored within three lines,” picturing users jumping from that page to content on helicopters, chickens, and alligators. Izzard does, however, present the information overload critique in a different way than CollegeHumor did: instead of calling its content inaccurate due to the networked economy of knowledge, article content is so specific and elaborate that it fails to address the “bigger picture.” Ironically, however, the other major critique Izzard has of the site deals with when it is missing content. In clicking on a search result that, while hyperlinked, lacks a page, Izzard asks, ““why did you put them in blue? Don’t put them in blue and have no page . . . . We have been trained. Like Pavlov and his dogs.” Hence, Izzard simultaneously contends that Wikipedia’s content can be too tedious yet laments when the promise of a page, as conveyed by the hyperlink, leads nowhere. In short, he wants both reduced content to capture the “bigger picture” and expanded content to cover more noteworthy information.

Cooking.jpgWhile some of its pages can, of course, be quite technical and specific, Wikipedia nevertheless cleverly outlines the “bigger picture” in spite of the specificity of its content. Namely, Wikipedia shows how knowledge has a “social life” as part of a network. The semantic potential of Wikipedia accounts for this. Facebook’s community pages, for instance, establish the transparency of said networks emanating from this semantic potential. They use Wikipedia’s content in pages comparable to fan pages, is the dominant example of this. Community pages further demystify the presence of networked knowledge in the age of new media by bringing relations between people and their ideas to the surface, accomplished through exposing user interests. Moreover, such relations reveal that “working out” knowledge is a cultural product and practice, not an objective truth waiting to be found. In doing so, community pages also extend Wikipedia’s aim of compiling cultural memory in seeking “the best collection of shared knowledge” on their topics. Rather than considering the simultaneous rise of the open source movement and the proliferation of virtual communities in foregrounding participatory cultures like Wikipedia’s, the examined popular media representations of Wikipedia deem the erratic due to its supposedly malleable, vulnerable content. They accordingly disregard the site’s cultural memory strengths in hosting a collaborative network tasked with preserving it.

3.4 Stephen Colbert

Stephen Colbert has made the most relevant, albeit still misguided, criticisms of the lot through his conceptualizations of “wikiality” and “wikilobbying.” Colbert describes the repercussions of the first term thusly: “if enough users agree, it becomes true.” To prove it, he successfully urged his viewers to edit Wikipedia’s elephant page to “report” that in half a year the total elephant population increased threefold. His conceptualization of wikiality displays the same anxieties over communal knowledge and authorship as with prior examples. Yet it is predicated on the same argument of bias that has plagued the most prominent and reputable media outlets as well. Except, rather than being committed by a mass of people and with a way of tracking how the community came to agree on said knowledge, it is committed in a closed circuit, with no evidence of source material or how the purported conclusions were arrived at. Hence is the benefit of the cultural memory function – the collective decisions are documented in a database, wherein one could trace the networks of influence guiding certain edits that could potentially be inaccurate. As it is with other media platforms, then, the problem is not the medium itself; rather, it is the users' lack of literacy with the platform at hand, a lack of awareness on how to fully take advantage of the provided assets.

With wikilobbying, however, Colbert unveils a legitimate problem that has been encountered in the past. Colbert, through proposing the existence of wikiality and wikilobbying, essentially turns the foundationalist rhetoric, as posited by Marx, of Wikipedia on its head. Opportunity to influence knowledge democratically, in his rationalization, leaves the community vulnerable to specific users controlling domains of knowledge, influencing what users choose to believe on different subjects. In this light, there is still very much so an institutional influence on Wikipedia – just one that is covert and more dangerous. This has been a noted concern with users representing their own self-interests, perhaps the most appalling instances being those of congressional staff editing politicians’ pages to appear more favorable (Anderson, 2006). But this can be precisely where Wikipedia can best intervene in its cultural memory function in that it is a database. Page histories archive prior saved versions. Talk pages document what other users say or think of the current state of the article, and are available for any viewer’s examination; they are not just meant for Wikipedians. Such features catalogue the actions people take upon content. The problem that Colbert presents, then, could alternatively be placed back on to the users themselves – that in using a database source like Wikipedia, it is the user’s responsibility to read through the trajectories of the articles themselves. With that, too, it is also the Wikipedian community’s burden to take advantage of the site’s resources to ensure that devoted members are keeping watch over articles matching their interests. This, as such, will keep Wikipedia a self-regulating entity. Moreover, said catalogue documents the conversations surrounding different topics, and learning takes place through conversing to begin with. Cultural interpretations are thus an open system rather than a closed one, a fact that Wikipedia's network community addresses through a cultural memory function based on conversation, collaboration, and interaction.

4. Conclusion

Ever-changing internal structures shape Wikipedia’s community of cultural memory, which justifies knowledge as the product of networked collaboration. Wikipedia’s corresponding innovations are underpinned by the lenient intellectual property parameters of the site that make the site a participatory culture for cataloguing cultural memory. Through its intriguing semantic potential and participatory journalism, Wikipedia embodies a new system of organization that allows for constant collaboration on a product that, while never truly finished, incorporates many different views into a singular interpretation. This fluid system makes Wikipedia a successful site for documenting cultural memory. However, popular criticism of Wikipedia discounts this. In sum, all of the examined pop culture examples downplay the benefits of a large, regulated community of knowledge. They respectively elect instead to underscore fears of shared authorship and content in light of a supposedly corrupt system upon which knowledge is negotiated. This ignores many of the site’s tools, such as its evolving FA criteria and selection process, the Edit Filters/False Positives/Reports page, article discussion pages, and user talk pages, and the site’s by-products, like Wikipedia time lapses and community pages, that validate its networked approach to knowledge in its pursuit of aggregating cultural memory.

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