The infinite internet

Something like this suddenly makes you realize that the internet is just limitless, and that knowledge cannot be bound by definitions like ‘digital’ or ‘offline’. Rob Matthews created this as an art project; in his words, “reproducing Wikipedia in a dysfunctional physical form helps to question its use as an internet resource.” The contents include only the 2,536 featured articles in Wikipedia, out of a total of 2,905,806 (featured articles are those that Wikipedia’s editors consider truly complete and accurate). 

It’s funny because at work, one of my colleagues recently made a joke about the intense research we were doing for a project, saying ‘we’re going to run out of the internet!’ – I guess not!

Education in art

I spent an educational afternoon at the Houldsworth Gallery in London today, where I went to view an exhibition titled ‘Learned Helplessness’ by the Royal Art Lodge. Each piece of art there is tiny – a small square of 2×2 inches, but has a message that comes out if you take the time to take in all that it is trying to say. I especially liked ones like ‘Kleenex Animism’ and ‘6’1-5’3′ which are among those pictured above (click on it to see a larger version). The latter, which shows a headless man, is a bit gory, but it is well-portrayed, in my opinion. The whole exhibition gives you a lot to think about, in terms of messages. For those who don’t really get it from looking at the images above, you have to BE there.

I was going through a book displayed at the venue that explained the rationale behind the Canadian collective’s art, and was surprised to note that Marshall McLuhan (yes, him again – he seems to be haunting me these days-his words came up in a scene in Mad Men when I was watching it yesterday as well!) and Charles Leadbeater were quoted by writer Guido Bartorelli in his introduction to the group’s work. I can’t find the essay or I would have linked to it (it’s very good), but essentially Guido says that the work of the group can be said to be low-definition art, or ‘cold media’ as defined by McLuhan: “its lexicon is by nature synthetic, stylised or grainy and the viewer is required to make a substantial effort to complete it, to fill in the gaps”.
Of Leadbeater, Bartorelli mentions the former’s work ‘We Think’, a book that was published earlier this year whose first three chapters can be read online and his Pro-Am Revolution theory, (i.e Professionals-Amateurs), which in essence says that today, thanks to the advances of technology, an amateur can pursue his interests to the level of a professional, and add to a body of work – as happens with Wikipedia. So, according to Bartorelli, things like Wikipedia, like the work of the Royal Art Lodge, are a good example of low-definition work, in that they are open to interpretation by pro-ams. (As a side note, I think Wikipedia, relevant as it is, is being used as an example by one too many writers – Clay Shirky also comes to mind, apart from Leadbeater – so much so that it is losing its power as a story-telling element. Familiarity and all that.)
Anyway, the point is that what I planned as a relaxed art viewing turned into a very informative day from a media point of view, and reinforced what I said just a couple of days ago – most meaningful communication these days involves the user. 

Wikipedia now in hard copy

Clearly, no idea is too far-fetched to implement, in this day and age. German media agency Bertelsmann is apparently bringing out a hard copy version of everyone’s favourite online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia. The first edition will contain about 50,000 articles, a few with images. I thought the whole point of Wikipedia was its instant-editing function. If this is going to be the first edition, I wonder how many they’ll need to bring out over the course of as small a period as one year, in order to be as accurate as possible. Oh well! A new idea it certainly is. A smart one? I don’t think so….

[via Trendwatching]

Jimmy Wales online

Check out this Salon video of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, on the importance of free speech online. He says that online videos like those on YouTube, for example, will help us get direct access to places like India and Africa and we can learn from them in a way we haven’t been able to till now. Good stuff.

I do have one grouse though: he says that (and I’m paraphrasing here) the international media doesn’t cover those geographical areas much unless there is a ‘train bombing or something’. Well, agencies like the Financial Times, the Guardian and the Economist certainly do, and with the growth projections of the BRIC group (Brazil, Russia, India and China) predicted to be substantial over the next couple of decades, I don’t think they will have a choice but to have sufficient coverage of those areas.

Back on the topic though, another thought: how far should the First Amendment go in protecting freedom of speech in this day and age where each new technology is an improvement on a previous version by leaps and bounds, and not just small steps?