I'm starting here because I think it sheds light, in the usual roundabout sort of way, on the recent clusterfuck over on Wikipedia. If you haven't been following the conflict, the long and short of it is that Gamergate, the violently misogynistic hate group ostensibly dedicated to "ethics in game journalism" but in fact dedicated to hounding women out of the game industry, has been gaming (ahah.) Wikipedia's systems for a while now in order to gain dominance over the article about them. A group dubbed the Five Horsemen has repeatedly opposed their efforts. Wikipedia's Arbitration Committee ("ArbCom") responded by handing down a decision that ousted the Five Horsemen along with a few gamergater burner accounts, patted itself on the back for a job well done, and effectively handed gamergate the keys to the kingdom. You can read about this on the blog of Mark Bernstein (and on his twitter), who broke the story and was banned and denounced in retaliation, or on Wikipedia itself in this editorial by user Protonk... who of course was ALSO banned and denounced in retaliation. Exciting times over on Wikipedia. The story's continued since then but those are the basic facts in the case that I think are worth relaying.
Before getting back to Wikipedia though let's take a moment to talk about the culture of Tumblr and its attitude towards its leaders. Any time Tumblr's staff updates the site there's immediately a race to see who can figure out the best ways to break the new features, or at least do something truly bizarre with the new features. Some of this of course stems from the endless frustration that we all have with a staff that prioritizes trivialities over critically absent core features (a functional blocking system! a functional inbox!) but more broadly speaking I think there's also an attitude on the site that if something CAN be fucked with, it SHOULD be fucked with. It's a creative attitude, and an oppositional one as well, one that resists rather than encourages consensus.
It's this attitude, more than any other form of resistance, that feels to me like the right strategy for dealing with Wikipedia's increasingly glaring flaws. Wikipedia is an engine for generating consensus, so artistic interventions--more plainly, vandalism, or even more plainly, fucking shit up--are essential for disrupting that engine. If Wikipedia has failed to live up to its ideals, instead becoming mired in the dehumanizing mechanisms of a bureaucracy that only a plutocracy of technocrats can engage with, then it's time to stop thinking about incrementally transforming the system, and start thinking about a way of breaking the system in half.
|There's a really obvious pun I could make here but I'll resist.|