The current wiki-inspired design theme for www.ericadriaans.com was selected as a writing and design exercise. While earlier versions of the website acted as a convenient and enjoyable blogging format, the wiki-styled version of the site provides a new writing challenge and exercise:
- write articles in a pseudo-wiki format contrasting the authoritative and objective voice of a crowd-sourced wiki knowledge-base with a subjective single-author source
- adopt the iterative approach of a wiki, continually updating articles based on new information; all content is provisional; incorporate source material and references in a quasi-academic or encyclopedic stance
- orient articles and content to a mix of creative and formal writing standards, content and objectives
- include a certain degree of dry humour and irony whenever and wherever possible
What is a Wiki
A wiki is typically a collaborate website relying on crowd-sourced content; essentially a wiki acts as an authoritative knowledge and information database or resource for its users. Wikipedia is arguably the best-known wiki. It is organized on the concept of an online encyclopedia. Wikipedia states that it is not a single wiki, but a collection of hundred of wikis in multiple languages. The organization also claims that the wiki in Wikipedia is drawn from a Hawaiian word for quick. One can but note a certain disappointment that wiki was not a reference to the slang term wicked…meaning extremely cool and awesome, and perhaps a bit naughty; as in “Erickipedia is wicked.” Being quick is certainly admirable; but being wicked may just be preferable.
Drawing on the established authoritative voice of an encyclopedia, Wikipedia is probably also one of the most commonly referenced resources in the English language. Notwithstanding inevitable financial considerations, there are several factors which seem to guarantee the continued success of Wikipedia as an online resource:
- Ease of navigation: users of the tool are quickly and intuitively able to navigate articles and every article provides many links to other related articles.
- Crowd-sourcing: the eagerness of individuals to monitor and contribute to Wikipedia articles ensures that content is continually updated and refreshed.
- Authoritative voice: the authoritative and objective voice of the tool lends itself to setting information forward as facts
- Non-Academic: though it might be argued that the absence of rigorous academic standards and methods undermines Wikipedia as a valid source of information (indeed, there are many who dismiss Wikipedia as a source of information), this is actually a strength as it takes intellectual pursuits out of academia. Wikipedia is part of a global trend of information becoming public and open rather than the domain of particular academic and professional credentialing systems.
In addition to a certain sense of boredom with a generic blogging format and the sheer challenge of creating a personally-inspired encyclopedic website, Erickipedia is a response to Richard Susskind’s 2016 Sir Graham Day Lecture in Ethics, Morality and the Law at Dalhousie University. As explained by CBC:
Technology is not just taking over factory jobs, according to British author and scholar Richard Susskind, it’s about to do the jobs of lawyers, doctors, journalists and other professionals. It could be the start of a social revolution, but what does it mean for the future of professional work by humans?…Computers now are not only infused with knowledge humans gave them — they’re also creating new and more advanced knowledge by themselves — on a massive scale. Some experts predict these computers will make many professions obsolete. And that leaves us with some burning questions, such as: what will happen when all these well-educated people become redundant? And how will they earn a living in the future?
One answer is that they will create works of art and culture for others to explore and enjoy. Perhaps they will also strive for the betterment of humanity and the global environment. Perhaps they’ll write a few poems along the way.
I’m sure I don’t have to explain the Eric in Erickipedia.
Seven Billion Encyclopedias
Umberto Eco’s Chronicles of a Liquid Society is a collection of short essays previously published as observations and opinions in L’Espresso magazine. One of Eco’s comments appears to be highly relevant to the Erickipedia experiment:
What culture and its body of paradigms does is therefore the result of a shared encyclopedia, comprising not only what has been conserved, but also, so to speak, the taboo on that which is eliminated. On the basis of this shared encyclopedia there is ten discussion. But for a discussion to be comprehensible to everyone, it needs to start from existing paradigms….a totality of content available in a disordered, unfiltered, unorganized manner, it enables anyone to construct their own encyclopedia, or rather their own free system of beliefs, ideas and values, which may contain, as happens inside the heads of many human beings, the idea that water is H2O at the same time as the idea that the sun revolves around the earth. In theory, we could therefore arrive at the existence of seven billion encyclopedias, and human society would be reduced to a fractured dialogue among seven billion people who each speak a different language that only the person speaking can understand. (2010)
Clearly, Eco displays significant concern regarding the idea of seven billion individual encyclopedias as well as the internet’s superficially chaotic environment – at least as evident in 2010, when the article was published.
In contrast, I view the seven billion encyclopedias as a valuable and inspiring opportunity for shared communication and understanding. Unlike Eco, I do not envision seven billion encyclopedia’s which fail to communicate. Eco’s concern seems to grow from an anxiety over a missing, externally-imposed common culture, ideology or, to repeat Eco’s metaphor, language. Instead, I see these billions of encyclopedias connected by the found, made and shared meanings.
Articles On Erickipedia
In 2018, Erickipedia begins with poetry, theories and perspectives of poetics and branches out into other formalized writing disciplines such as legislative drafting, policy writing and more.
The Erickipedia is a personal universe of story-telling, knowledge and information. In genre literature, a self-contained and consistent setting where action of story-telling occurs is considered a fictional universe. Popular examples of a fictional universe include:
- the mythology of a given culture (eg. Norse, Greek, Chinese, Egyptian)
- the settings of the Frank Herbert’s Dune series
- the Marvel comic book universe vs. the DC comic book universe
- the mysteries novels of Agatha Christie
The parameters of a fictional universe preclude an unreasonable intrusion of information from other fictional universes or, indeed from the real universe of common human experience. It is therefore expected that Norse mythology will not contain references to Agatha Christie or her characters, Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple. It is not unreasonable, however, for Agatha Christie or one of her characters to reference Norse mythology. We’ll set aside, for the moment, mash-ups which force characters from separate fictional universes into contact with each other.
The Erickipedia is an exercise to create short articles and expositions which are internally consistent while exploring new-media story telling opportunities. This is a personal universe of story-telling, knowledge and information.
References and Citations
- Wikipedia’s article on wiki
- Replacing the Professionals – Richard Susskind’s 2016 Sir Graham Day Lecture in Ethics, Morality and The Law at Dalhousie University
All content on www.ericadriaans.com, the Erickipedia, is updated and revised based on new information, further consideration, reader feedback and whim. To recommend updates, provide feedback or comment please use the contact and feedback form.
- Original draft: June 14, 2018
- Updated July 20, 2018
- September 27, 2018