June 17, 2008
Follow me on Twitter

Wiki Notes

Anja Rau (konzeptionerd.de) is intrigued by wiki mystery 2. If to name is to link, how do we link ironically, or lyrically? She argues that feints are possible in wikis.

But irony is all about breaking the rules, saying the improper(*), taking an unexpected turn. Especially in longer pieces, the unexpected turn will be taken somewhere along the road, perhaps at the very end, but rarely in the very beginning. Thus, a seemingly ordinary wiki-link that leads to a page titled according to the link’s name, may not be ironical at face-value, but if the article at its target is ironic towards its title, isn’t the link?

This needs more exploration, I think — and perhaps this needs demonstration in actual wikis. But it's a promising line to pursue.

The footnote raises another facet of wiki mystery 2: if to name is to link, how do we handle linguistic drift in multi-language wikis. Rau glosses improper:

(*) In German, the mathematical term “improper” translates into “uneigentlich” and the adjective “uneigentlich”, as in “uneigentliches Sprechen” is also used to characterised ironical speech-acts.

The impropriety of an “improper fraction,” or the fantasy of an “imaginary number,” may not travel well across languages. This is always the bane of translation, but surely it will be much worse in wikis with large-scale structure. If the payoff to an ironic allusion appears two or three links downstream, what are we to do in other languages that don’t happen to combine the same meanings?

Elsewhere, Tom Hoffman agrees that the wiki encyclopedia just now seems discordant with the intellectual trends. “The whole idea of an encyclopedia,” he writes, “seemed antiquated. It is an enlightenment idea, certainly not a post-modern one.”