Wednesday, September 22, 2010

'The Iraq War: A Wikipedia Historiography' (WN0033)

This set of books, a 12-volume collection of some 7,000 pages, was recently created by publisher/author James Bridle. An artefact for our times, it contains every edit and version of a single Wikipedia article (12,000 in total) - the one on the Iraq War - between December 2004 and November 2009.

Rather than a more straightforward history, the collection is described as a 'historiography', being what you get when you study not 'the events of the past directly, but the changing interpretations of those events in the works of individual historians' (Furay & Salevouris, 1988).

Bridle himself describes history as a process rather than a set of facts, a point of view that I would certainly concur with. He goes on to describe Wikipedia thus:
(It) is a useful subset of the entire internet, and as such a subset of all human culture. It’s not only a resource for collating all human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we agree on, and what we cannot.
It is certainly a fascinating way to visually represent both changes in our contemporary global culture and a divisive issue that has been probably the biggest international point of contention of the last ten years (as evidenced by the range of opinions contained within the volumes). Publishing books of wiki edits might be an old style way of representing the new, but I think it works well and certainly makes a strong point.


Furay, Salevouris (1988); The Methods and Skills of History: a Practical Guide; Harlan Davidson

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