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> Institute Of Network Cultures, Koolaid Is The New “Kritikal”
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Jon Awbrey
post Sat 5th June 2010, 3:32am
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Taking off from Sam Vaknin's article on “The Wikipedia Cult”, a lively discussion of the whole cult issue has ensued on the CPOV List.

I don't like copying other people's comments without permission, so I'll just give links to theirs and copy my own responses here.

Re: Nathaniel Tkacz and Seth Finkelstein

QUOTE

Wikipedia's cabalism, cultishness, groupthinkitude, whatever you want to call it, is very real, and Vaknin's article describes it quite accurately. I frankly wish we could be discussing the future of knowledge work on the Web, relative to which Wikipedia furnishes a wealth of data about how badly a naive idea can can wrong, but other people keep bringing it up, so those who know are forced to say what they know.

This is of course a hoary old topic at The Wikipedia Review. I once began a "meta-thread" in the Meta-Discussion Forum to collect various reflections on the subject. It appears to be something of a dead horse over there, but here it is, FWIW:

Meta-Thread On Cult Dynamics

I am slightly incited to resuscitate the jockey if not the horse.

Jon Awbrey, 03 Jun 2010

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Jon Awbrey
post Sat 5th June 2010, 3:56am
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Re: Juliana Brunello

QUOTE

The topic of "dysfunction" is another one with a long record of discussion at The Wikipedia Review. The first thing to know about dysfunction is that it is relative to a function, that is, a goal, ideal, objective, purpose, or value.

That brings us to the issue of "espoused values" versus "actual values", as emphasized, for instance, by systems thinkers like Argyris and Schön. One of the first questions to ask about a group project like Wikipedia is whether the values that are "actually" actualized by it are consistent with the values that group members are constantly espousing. When we see a wide divergence between the two, as most long-term observers see in Wikipedia, we have the task of explaining that difference. The complex of activities associated with Wikipedia may be perfectly functional with respect to certain goals — the fact that these activities persist in spite of every attempt to modify them should give us a clue — the question is, "What are those goals?"

Jon Awbrey, 03 Jun 2010

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Jon Awbrey
post Sat 5th June 2010, 4:14am
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CPOV Listings

Re: Seth Finkelstein

QUOTE

Seth's remarks about "pre-existing vulnerable people" ties in with another one of those much-discussed topics at The Wikipedia Review. Many observers have noticed the commonalities that connect 3 types of "usual susceptibles":
  1. the predisposition to become addicted to online role-playing games,
  2. the psychological profile of the typical mark in a confidence game,
  3. the susceptibility to sudden belief system conversion, as in cults.
The engine that drives the game forward in all of these cases is an unbridled expectation buried in the psyche of the exploited person, an irrational drive that the exploiter uses to rein and ride the mark.

Jon Awbrey, 05 Jun 2010

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Jon Awbrey
post Sat 5th June 2010, 12:40pm
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CPOV Listings

Re: Alan Shapiro

QUOTE

Being a Peircean pragmatic thinker, by virtue or maybe by dint of long-continuing auto-inculcation, I can't help coloring outside the lines of dyadic thinking for very long, so let me let that business pass.

One of the lessons that my teachers pounded into my head over many long years of alio-inculcation was that education and inquiry have as much to do with process as product, as much to do with conduct as content.

Wikipedia, just to take up the current example, begins to look like a very different proposition when we start to examine the reality of practice that prevails in its orbit.

Maybe it would help to focus, one by one, on particular practices that distinguish Wikipedia Culture from other systems that we know?

One practice that is very symptomatic of cults, dogmatic organizations, faith-oriented groups, religions, sects, whatever you want to call them, is the practice of banning, shunning, or excommunicating onetime members of the group, members who were once considered "good faith" participants.

Jon Awbrey, 03 Jun 2010


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Moulton
post Sat 5th June 2010, 12:45pm
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I admire your last paragraph, especially as you resisted the temptation to invoke the name of Hammurabi in the general context of ostracism and castigation.
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Jon Awbrey
post Sat 5th June 2010, 12:50pm
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QUOTE(Moulton @ Sat 5th June 2010, 8:45am) *

I admire your last paragraph, especially as you resisted the temptation to invoke the name of Hammurabi in the general context of ostracism and castigation.


The mere thought of being castigrated with oyster shells makes me wince too much to bear.

Jon pinch.gif
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Moulton
post Sat 5th June 2010, 1:01pm
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Sat 5th June 2010, 8:50am) *
The mere thought of being castigrated with oyster shells makes me wince too much to bear.

Jon pinch.gif

Well, yeah. Can you imagine being castigated, ostracized, and emasculated in the process of editing a scholarly article on Peirce, Action Research, or Affective Computing?

Can you imagine writing a memoir about such an experience?
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Jon Awbrey
post Sat 5th June 2010, 4:02pm
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Academic studies of Wikipediot Culture that limit themselves to the content of articles are like Martian astronomers documenting the spread of an oil slick across one of Earth's oceans, with no inkling of its underlying Economic-Political-Technical (EPT) causes.

Rather INEPT, don't you think?

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thekohser
post Mon 19th July 2010, 11:03am
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Wed 17th March 2010, 8:46am) *

CPOV Listings

Geert Lovink posted notice ...


Geert Lovink also posted notice to me, privately by e-mail, this morning. Here's what he had to say:

QUOTE
Dear Gregory,

The CPOV organisers have decided to remove you from the list. We feel that your contributions are working against the kind of dialogue we would like to see flourish on our list. Our intent is not to nit pick about Wikipedia, show our disdain for it, or to reveal its members to be evil or cult-like, etc. etc. Moreover, we do not wish to alienate people who participate in Wikipedia in our discussion. There already exists a space for that kind of discussion at The Wikipedia Review.

Thanks,

The CPOV editorial committee


Sounds like Landru got to him. What is it with these Dutch guys? Oh, wait. That's another thread.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 19th July 2010, 12:18pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 7:03am) *

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Wed 17th March 2010, 8:46am) *

CPOV Listings

Geert Lovink posted notice …


Geert Lovink also posted notice to me, privately by e-mail, this morning. Here's what he had to say:

QUOTE

Dear Gregory,

The CPOV organisers have decided to remove you from the list. We feel that your contributions are working against the kind of dialogue we would like to see flourish on our list. Our intent is not to nit pick about Wikipedia, show our disdain for it, or to reveal its members to be evil or cult-like, etc. etc. Moreover, we do not wish to alienate people who participate in Wikipedia in our discussion. There already exists a space for that kind of discussion at The Wikipedia Review.

Thanks,

The CPOV editorial committee


Sounds like Landru got to him. What is it with these Dutch guys? Oh, wait. That's another thread.


Don't feel too special, I got one, too …

“Wikipedism As Cult” is hardly a novel theme these days, but it was actually Juliana Brunello — I thought she was one of the “C”POV List organizers? — who needled the current “C”POV thread titled “The Wikipedia Cult”:

QUOTE

<CPOV> The Wikipedia Cult
Juliana Brunello <juliana at networkcultures.org>
Mon May 31 12:33:36 CEST 2010

* Previous message: <CPOV> A critique of the idea of neutral language
* Next message: <CPOV> The Wikipedia Cult
* Messages sorted by: [ date ] [ thread ] [ subject ] [ author ]

This is an interesting interview that compares Wikipedia to a cult.
Sam Vaknin sees Wikipedia through a very negative lens, but I did
agree with some of the arguments (though I believe his arguments
are mostly exaggerated). I would like to read your opinions on that.

http://globalpolitician.com/26423-wikipedia-cult-jimmy-wales

Juliana

Institute of Network Cultures
HvA Interactive Media
www.networkcultures.org


So if there was ever a diversity of critical opinion among the “C”POV Editorship, it appears those days are all in the past — there's a new “Consensus” in the Covert Central Committee Point Of View (C³POV).

Grant money is so hard to come by these days — I wonder who bought them off? — stay tuned for the ¼coming CfP.

Jon Awbrey
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thekohser
post Mon 19th July 2010, 1:22pm
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CPOV was a rather moribund discussion list. Without you or me contributing, Jon, it's going to be that much more moribund, in an echo chamber. I won't be holding my breath for the "great shining moment" where they make a meaningful breakthrough in their field.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 19th July 2010, 1:36pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 9:22am) *

CPOV was a rather moribund discussion list. Without you or me contributing, Jon, it's going to be that much more moribund, in an echo chamber. I won't be holding my breath for the "great shining moment" where they make a meaningful breakthrough in their field.


You know me, The Infernal Optimist (TIO), I actually had a glimmer of hope that this group would earn their “C”. And no less a light than Seth Finkelstein had recently weighed in, so they had a chance of facing the facts from folks who've been forced to face them before.

Well, excuse me for being critical — It's a dirty job, and they sure ain't going to do it.

Just chalk it up to yet another Wikipedia-related failure of critical thinking.

Jon Awbrey
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 19th July 2010, 2:24pm
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Just by way of bringing folks up to date, my last post to the Cult, er, “Critical” POV List was partly a followup to this one by Seth Finkelstein:

QUOTE

<CPOV> The Wikipedia Cult
Seth Finkelstein <sethf at sethf.com>
Thu Jun 3 15:04:25 CEST 2010

> nathaniel tkacz
> i don' think the question of whether wikipedia is or is not a cult is a useful one.
> what is there to add by calling it a cult?

Demystification.

I've been saying "Wikipedia is a cult" for years now, including in some columns I wrote for the Guardian newspaper, for example:

"Inside, Wikipedia is more like a sweatshop than Santa's workshop"
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/dec/06/wikipedia

"One subtext of the Wikipedia hype is that businesses can harvest an eager pool of free labour, disposable volunteers who will donate effort for the sheer joy of it. The fantasy is somewhat akin to Santa's workshop, where little elves work happily away for wages of a glass of milk and a cookie. Whereas the reality is closer to an exploitative cult running on sweatshop labour."

The point is a very concise way (four words) of conveying an alternate explanation for Wikipedia's functioning, against the immense marketing of it as a mystery created by magical technology ("wikis" and "The Internet").

I get a lot of flack from describing Wikipedia as a cult. One common response is a strawman argument, something like: Cults are by definition extreme apocalyptic, murderous, or suicidal, organizations. Wikipedia does not fit that definition. Therefore Wikipedia is not a cult.

But I'd say such a definition would be drawn too narrowly. Extreme cults tends to be self-limiting, precisely because they are too dysfunctional to survive (mass suicide is not good for organizational continuity).

Then sometimes people want me to give an extensive theory, which will handle all cases and examples they can imagine. That's very tedious.

The basic point is that "cult" is a extremely illuminating way of analyzing how Wikipedia works (or doesn't), in terms of social dynamics. Especially in the face of much pressure to view it as some sort of unique technological entity which should not be connected to many well-known aspects of group psychology.

--

Seth Finkelstein Consulting Programmer sethf at sethf.com http://sethf.com
See Guardian columns at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/sethfinkelstein

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thekohser
post Mon 19th July 2010, 2:45pm
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QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 19th July 2010, 9:36am) *

...I actually had a glimmer of hope that this group would earn their “C”. And no less a light than Seth Finkelstein had recently weighed in, so they had a chance of facing the facts from folks who've been forced to face them before.


It is also interesting to note, then, that Seth Finkelstein has also been removed by the "editorial committee" from the CPOV mailing list.
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Jon Awbrey
post Mon 19th July 2010, 5:45pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 10:45am) *

QUOTE(Jon Awbrey @ Mon 19th July 2010, 9:36am) *

I actually had a glimmer of hope that this group would earn their “C”. And no less a light than Seth Finkelstein had recently weighed in, so they had a chance of facing the facts from folks who've been forced to face them before.


It is also interesting to note, then, that Seth Finkelstein has also been removed by the "editorial committee" from the CPOV mailing list.


O My Prophetic Soul !!!

I had already called attention to the Banning Phenomenon — here and here — as being one of the chief features of a Not Especially Critical Point Of View (NECPOV).

Here is what I wrote in what would turn out to be my last post to the list:

QUOTE

<CPOV> The Wikipedia Cult / Focal Problem / Banning

CPOViewers,

I've been meaning to get back to this exploration of focal problems in Wikipediatrics, but a couple of ongoing family crises have been keeping my wits scattered all over the map …

The perception that Wikipedism is far more cult-like in its basic character than anything advertised as a knowledge-oriented enterprise ought to be has of course arisen on many occasions, but here is a reminder of the occasion that we came in with this time around:

{{Links to Context}}
Re: cpov listcultures.org/2010-June/000185.html
Re: cpov listcultures.org/2010-June/000187.html
{{/Links to Context}}

That brings us to the focal problem of Banning, Shunning, Excommunicating …

If you look at the amount of time that Wikipedists devote to filtering out inputs from "taboo" or "unclean" sources, you can't help but admit that the practices of banning, blocking, censoring, excommunicating, shunning, and generally plugging their fingers in their ears is one of the most significant features, or bugs, of Wikipedism as a social system.

The question is — What's that all about?

Jon Awbrey, 18 Jul 2010

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thekohser
post Mon 19th July 2010, 6:20pm
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This will make for a nice topic on an upcoming Examiner.com story.
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Jon Awbrey
post Tue 20th July 2010, 2:49am
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 2:20pm) *

This will make for a nice topic on an upcoming Examiner.com story.


Crazy Like A Fox News Write-Up ???

I'm guessing it's all a ploy to get more press — no doubt they subscribe to the theory that no publicity is bad publicity.

Jon tongue.gif
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thekohser
post Tue 27th July 2010, 7:59pm
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 2:20pm) *

This will make for a nice topic on an upcoming Examiner.com story.


And lo and behold, it's been published.
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Abd
post Wed 28th July 2010, 12:41am
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Tue 27th July 2010, 3:59pm) *
QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 2:20pm) *
This will make for a nice topic on an upcoming Examiner.com story.
And lo and behold, it's been published.
Very old story. Exclusion without clear and good reason, by a small oligarchy (perhaps just a single individual), is very poor process and leads to expectation of failure of the INC initiative. I've seen what happens when "disruptive critics" are excluded and, indeed, the normal response, ultimately, is collapse. That doesn't mean that disruption should be tolerated, but that the simplistic response of "ban" is dangerous and damaging. I didn't see that there was disruption happening, in fact. Just normal criticism of Wikipedia.
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Jon Awbrey
post Wed 28th July 2010, 3:22am
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QUOTE(thekohser @ Tue 27th July 2010, 3:59pm) *

QUOTE(thekohser @ Mon 19th July 2010, 2:20pm) *

This will make for a nice topic on an upcoming Examiner.com story.


And lo and behold, it's been published.


My comment —

QUOTE

Needless to say, it is highly unusual for the moderator of an academic discussion list like CPOV to eject 3 bona fide members at the same time with the same form letter without prior advisement or discussion.

I had been hopeful that the CPOV List would become a venue for truly critical reflection on Wikipedia and the Internet in general, but that hope is now dashed by these recent events. I had even started a thread at The Wikipedia Review way back in March for keeping its readers posted on the activities of the Institute of Network Cultures and the discussions occurring on the CPOV List. Readers here may find bits of background, history, and further discussion there.

Jon Awbrey, 27 July 2010


Zoom Messy Fooey !!! — They don't allow links in comments or even simple HTML — how backwoods is that!?

Jon hrmph.gif
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