Salon 10: November 12, 2020: Wikipedia and Constructions of Actual and Satirical Possible and Impossible Worlds

Critical Writing
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Abstract (in English): 

Overview and Instructions

Regardless of what opinions you hold about Wikipedia from a public information, crowd sourcing, labor, language, design, educational, disciplinary, organizational, or commercial perspective, we can all agree that the site and its rhetorical organization of knowledge have achieved wide global currency in the 21st c. Frequently cited to support the incredible power of networked based digital reference materials to improve or destroy society and its cultures as we know them, empower or exploit contributors, hasten or impede the distribution of common knowledge and globalization, or merely as one of the few wikis that ever fully realized the power of that medium on a planetary scale, the site and its many connotations have become a part of popular discourse and culture. Whether this networked public encyclopedia project harkens the realization or the death of 18th c. European rationalist projects to organize the world's knowledge is a topic for all of us to consider in the background as we engage with the generic and stylistic conventions of the site to create Wikipedia entries that take a speculative, as opposed to documentary, approach to depicting the facts of the world(s) we live in, have lived in, or may or could live in.  


What I will be asking you to do in this virtual ELO session is to invent some phenomenon, system, business, product, person, group, artifact, language, discipline, place, or event and to create a Wikipedia entry for it.  I invite you to use this exercise as a way to describe elements of fictional worlds the you have previously constructed or considered constructing, elements within or related to the fictional worlds constructed by others, or elements that are plausible extensions of the objective worlds we inhabit based on slight revisions of the historical and fact-based narratives that we generally rely on to understand them.  Using the constraints of Wikipedia and the creative possibilities in satire, we will imagine new social structures and technologies to comment on existing ones.  


An example of the first approach, which I refer to as "world building," would be naming and describing some physical location or space in a fictional world from a text or object that you have crafted, thought about crafting, or simply imagined.  An example of the second approach, which I refer to as "annexed world building" would be describing an element from a fictional world already created in existing fictions.  An example of the third approach, which I refer to as "subjunctive world building," would be to engage with the histories we generally take for granted or collectively acknowledge as factual as instead being contingent and to depict a something or someone (an object, person, phenomenon, place, system, etc.) that could exist if the current reality we live in, which is based to some extent on a specific sequence of events and their interpretations, had occurred or been received differently.  


Below, you will find some additional prompts and resources related to each of the three approaches.  If you would prefer to work in pairs or groups, please feel free to do so.  Please use this instapad space to record your notes and thoughts related to this exercise and this template to record your fictional Wikipedia entry.  At the end of 30 minutes, we will reconvene to share our entries and to discuss this exercise.  


(salon documentation)

Works referenced:

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
Wiki 1995
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Record posted by: 
Hannah Ackermans