Thursday, December 06, 2007

And Now For Something Completely Different

My wiki research has lead me to branch out from wikipedia, and look at some of the other wiki sites hosted by Jimmy Wales' Wikia project. These sites use the same mediawiki software as wikipedia and share many of the same community production practices. The goals of these sites, however, are not the same as Wikipedia's.

Many of the sites, such as wookiepedia, are fan sites, essentially replicating the wikipedia project of compiling encyclopedic knowledge, only for some fictional universe (wookiepedia, as the name suggests, is devoted to the star wars universe) rather than the actual universe.

This is pretty interesting in and of itself. A bit like falling into one of Borge's mythical libraries and finding all those guidebooks and maps to places that never were.

But what really has sucked me in these last few days is Uncyclopedia. Billing itself as "the content free encyclopedia" (a play on Wikipedia's subtitle "The Free Encyclopedia") Uncyclopedia is a gallery of the absurd, offering up things like blatantly false Biographies and lists of such useless and silly ideas as the "List of weapons that shoot other weapons which don't exist but should." The site even uses its own structure to poke fun at wikipedia and revel in the absurd by organizing articles into ridiculous categories such as: things George Bush most certainly cares about and things god hates according to Fred Phelps.

The coolest thing about this site is the way it seems to directly invert wikipedia's goal. Where wikipedia seeks to create and organize meaningful, useful information uncyclopedia spins a frantic bricolage of meaningless, useless nonsense. It is rather like the Dada movement with web access.

At least, at its best. Much of uncyclopedia's "content" (anti-content??) falls short of the mark of being truly absurd and is merely silly and sophomoric, often misogynist, racist, and homophobic.

However, I think this entry manages to get it right, to break the bounds of hegemonic meaning and its endless quest for "useful forces" and "productive bodies", to float out as far from power/knowledge as you could reasonably hope to get.

Nothing, of course, is really free or innocent. But man. That gets close.

No comments: