anonymous and wikipedia

This semester, I’m teaching a 200-level class called “Institutions and Movements,” so I was drawn to some of the articles posted for this week.  I found Gabriella Coleman’s article on Anonymous to be quite compelling, as she traces the ways in which the elusive groups uses various techniques to make social and political statements.  Coleman explains, “By unpredictably fusing conventional activism with transgression and tricksterism, Anonymous has captured the attention of a diverse cornucopia of admirers and skeptics. Many are watching, recognizing the power of the mask as a potential force to unmask corruption, hypocrisy, and state and corporate secrecy” (20).  Reflecting on the complexities and tactics of Anonymous, it is interesting to think about its potential and its operation.  Some of the workings of Anonymous connect to this film, called The East, which portrays an environmental activist group who goes to extremes to get their points across.  Also, I found this blog that discusses some of the Anonymous imagery used in pop culture.  I’m interested in learning more about Anonymous and how its functions and expressions.  (On a side note, I think the Triple Canopy website is set up in an interesting way that really matches its reflections and research.  I guess I’m still thinking about online scholarly presence from Week One.)

In David Auerbach’s “Treatise,” he discusses the importance of anonymity in internet spaces, particularly in a world that has growing surveillance, by tracing A-culture and its multiple meanings and complexities.  He discusses its connection to activism:  “Activism, however various, is fundamentally in line with the self-willed autonomy of A-culture. The participants want to be—and, increasingly, are expressing an interest in nonparticipants’ being—left alone and allowed to thrive, and they want the principles of the culture they’ve created to be defended; anger at censorious forces, from Sony to the Syrian government, has led to increasing political mobilization, albeit often haphazardly.”  Auerbach paints a picture of what it looks like for people to be unrestricted in their comments and communications, and looks at some of these outcomes.  In his “Case Studies,” I was struck by the language and abbreviations used in this kind of space.  I’m sure I have some questions about this, but none have totally formulated as of now.

As for Wikipedia…we all know how powerful it can be.  We use it, our students use it, and it can simultaneously be a democratic space but also an unfair power/knowledge production, as mentioned in Adeline Koh’s website on “Re-writing Wikipedia”.  Studying how Wikipedia functions over time allows limitations and potentials to surface.  Wolff’s piece explores some of the aspects of Wikipedia.  He says, “Wikipedia also maintains discussion pages for each entry that permit even the casual visitor – as well as the scholar bent on digital history – to follow the give and take between different contributors.”  I think this allows for new kinds of understandings when we line these things up together.  What kind of obligation do we have as scholars to Wikipedia and Open Access projects?  Adeline Koh says, “Thus, Postcolonial Digital Humanists have an obligation to engage with Wikipedia editing.”  While I haven’t edited anything yet, I certainly plan to in the fields of my research.  I explored some pages on blues women and found they were very minimal in terms of their research posted.  This project is interesting and important,  and I plan to engage with it further in the next few weeks.


About jeanettethall

graduate student in American Studies View all posts by jeanettethall

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