Monday, April 6, 2009

Wiki Legends

"Wikipedia mimics the basic civility, trust and self organizing of a city...The marvel of Widipedia -- and cities -- is that all intercourse and spiritual stimulus don't make living there impossible...It is a tale of spontaneous organization and achievement."

Norm Cohen, "Wikipedia: Exploring Fact City, The New York Times, March 28-29, 2009.

I do find Wikipedia a marvel and a beacon of self organization. But the "city" comparison and invoking urban greats like Lewis Mumford and Jane Jacobs is going a bit too far. Rather, with Wikipedia I get the feeling of being part of a great, self-organizing people's library -- with all the delights of getting lost or randomly diverted in the stacks.

Cities not only self organize trust and civility (at their best) but also power, sacrifice,money, and crime. Even inveterate flaneurs will avoid certain parts of cities. Cities are a total mind/body experience -- smells, sounds, whooshing, confusion, disorder -- more like a novel than a Wikipedia entry. All the senses are engaged, even walking down an empty Charles Street in Baltimore crying out for a little Jane Jacobs.

Comparing skepticism about Wikipedia to the rural bias against cities is out of date. Maybe a suburban bias? I suspect, however, that many Wikipedia users and creators grew up in the suburbs or currently reside there.

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