<CPOV> fm: Beyond the legacy of the Enlightenment?

andrew.famiglietti at lcc.gatech.edu andrew.famiglietti at lcc.gatech.edu
Wed Mar 17 13:28:20 CET 2010


I actually blogged about this same idea awhile ago here: http://blogs.bgsu.edu/afamigl/2009/03/26/tasty-theory-clusters/

The thoughts in that blog post were drawn from an early draft of my dissertation, however I ultimately abandoned the notion of "Wikipedia as Heterotopia" because I found it unhelpful. After reading this article, I remain confident that I made the right decision. It's true that Wikipedia, like Borges' mythical Chinese Encyclopedia, brings together many unfamiliar elements, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_animals_with_fraudulent_diplomas to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicron, but I'm not sure how the Heterotopia helps us understand the particular construction that is Wikipedia (and Foucault himself insists that Hereotopias are specific constructions!). Why does Wikipedia associate the particular elements that it does? Why are other things left out? Can we discover some contours to the content left behind by the endless clash of the drives to archive and the drive to erase that are embodied by those two great camps, the inclusionists and the deletionists? 

I'm still trying to answer those questions, and I'm already getting some helpful insights from participating on this list! I'm just not sure how helpful it is to define Wikipedia as "Heterotopia," even though I think it clearly fits this definition. 

- Andy 

----- Original Message -----
From: "Geert Lovink" <geert at xs4all.nl>
To: "cpov" <cpov at listcultures.org>
Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 5:38:19 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: <CPOV> fm: Beyond the legacy of the Enlightenment?


I wondered if everyone had already seen this article on First Monday:


Beyond the legacy of the Enlightenment?
Online Encyclopaedias as digital heterotopias

by Jutta Haider and Olaf Sundin

This article explores how we can understand contemporary participatory  
online encyclopaedic expressions, particularly Wikipedia, in their  
traditional role as continuation of the Enlightenment ideal, as well  
as in the distinctly different space of the Internet. Firstly we  
position these encyclopaedias in a historical tradition. Secondly, we  
assign them a place in contemporary digital networks which marks them  
out as sites in which Enlightenment ideals of universal knowledge take  
on a new shape. We argue that the Foucauldian concept of heterotopia,  
that is special spaces which exist within society, transferred online,  
can serve to understand Wikipedia and similar participatory online  
encyclopaedias in their role as unique spaces for the construction of  
knowledge, memory and culture in late modern society.

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Andrew Famiglietti 
Brittain Fellow 
School of Literature, Communication, and Culture 
Georgia Institute of Technology

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