The ‘where d’ya git it’ award for irritating an audience


Some of you will remember that John Singleton made a fortune by setting out to irritate his TV audience with his ads, the ‘where d’ya git it’ ad being the paradigm case.

I listen to the ABC’s Philosopher’s Zone program not because it’s particularly good (it’s not) but because I am interetsed in philosophy. Last night was dedicated to the thoughts of Jaron Lanier.

Jaron Lanier is against Wikipedia. A strange thing to be against. Apart from his habit of laughing almost uncontrollably at his own (non)-jokes, and apart from not being philosophical in any but the slightest way, his argument was calculated to really irritate – me anyway.

It was this: that people think that Wikipedia will distill objective truth from a thousand bored volunteers, rather than from someone authoritative. And it’s got lots of mistakes in it. So while people think that Wikipedia is an example of the ‘wisdom of crowds’ it’s a misapplication of it.

Well there may be some people silly enough to think that Wikipedia is somehow superior on all counts to alternative ways of producing encyclopedias. But the reason Wikipedia’s so great is that it’s there, it’s free, it’s pretty good (in points of detail its very often far better than Britanica because it’s so big), and on points of accuracy Britainnica is but it’s often very easy to tell what you can believe, and check what you can’t on Google.

But because Wikipedia does not conform to some cock and bull story about epistemological nirvana, this guy is against it. Wikipedia is absolutely marvellous for some things, and less good for others. A bit like Encyclopedia Britannica really. Or oranges or buildings.

He kept using the term ‘collectivist’ knowledge. It turns out he’s written a long essay for the often interesting, but often long winded Edge. It’s called “Digital Maoism: The hazards of the New Online Collectivism”.

I didn’t listen to the program for more than the first ten or fifteen minutes, and haven’t read the article further than to notice the guy’s first sentence – to the effect that the Wikipedia’s biography of him isn’t to his taste. So maybe it’s all marvellous. But unless someone wants to set me straight, I’m out of here.

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17 years ago

I don’t need to listen to him to be irritated by him.

Francis Xavier Holden
17 years ago

Like Tony I’m already irritated by his picture and now your synopsis. No need to read anything he’s written. I’m off to see if I can edit his Wiki entry.

David Walker
17 years ago

Heard it too. Same reaction. Except … it was one of those commentaries whose lack of persuasiveness crystallises for you how firmly you hold the opposing opinion.

17 years ago

I heard him on Michael Duffy’s program yesterday. He rep[eated the wikipedia stuff, and when asked to nominate technological change he likes picked MySpace because it’s the kids learning how to express their individual selves. Even if, as he acknowledged, the results are complete crap.