wikipedia at
Tue Feb 27 04:00:39 EST 2007

While I personally find Wikepedia pretty handy to have at hand for some
quick research, I think it is going to have a far profounder effect in the
long run.

Speaking as someone who ekes out an incredibly tenuous living writing about
Japanese film, I am very concerned about the bulk of the entries that
paraphrase, and in the worst case downright plagiarise entries from me and
Tom's Midnight Eye Guide or the website without giving due credit, and I
would dare say that there are a number of other writers on this list whose
book sales are probably going to be hit as well.

I am not sure what the legal recompense writers working in specialist fields
have for attacking a behemoth like Wikipedia, but what I can imagine
probably happening is that people will just stop writing reference books in
the dictionary / encyclopedia mould.

The question of whether "History Can Be Open Source" is a really interesting
one - I spent a while trawling around Wikipedia looking for info on the
Arab-Israeli conflict, navigating through the maze of hyperlinks that lead
one through the Six-Day War through the PLO, the PLFLP, the SLA, the
Lebanenese Civil War etc and it is amazing how much individual spin the
writers of each entries put on history. Its blatantly obvious in most cases
whether the contributor lie with Palestine or Israel. The fact that the
contributors and editors are anonymous on this site really bothers me, but
also, what seems like a strength - this ideal of "consensual history", or
"history is written by the first person that takes an hour out of their
evening schedule to write it down" is also quite evidently a major weakness;
there is no cohesiveness to anything. What we have is like the imdb, full of
errors, but potentially rather more dangerous in that while it really
effects no one if the wrong name is given for the dolly grip in Men in Black
2, when historical innaccuracies or matters of opinion get set in stone we
have a rather dangerous situation.

Jasper Sharp

Midnight Eye: The Latest and Best in Japanese Cinema


Available now in bookstores everywhere:
The Midnight Eye Guide to New Japanese Film (Stone Bridge Press)
by Tom Mes and Jasper Sharp
"Easily one of the most important books on Japanese cinema ever released in
- Newtype USA

--------- Original Message --------
From: KineJapan at
To: KineJapan at <KineJapan at>
Subject: wikipedia
Date: 26/02/07 17:33

> Dear Anne and Joe
> This article was posted on H-1960s a while ago and I thought
> it was interesting:
> &quot;Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the
> Past&quot;
> Roy Rosenzweig
> This article was originally published in The Journal of
> American History
> Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46.
> Also available online at:
> One of the things that it shows is that if you are writing
> on a topic that other people have opinions about, it can be
> frustrating to keep the entry the way you think it should
> be. Wikipedia has a tendency to veer towards popular forms
> of history, intersted in accumulating facts.
> As for Anne's wish to make the Japan entries more
> contemporary, I couldn't agree more. But at the same time
> point out that not everyone is living in
> that &quot;contemporary.&quot; If editing starts to involve a back and
> forth between two versions, it can be helpful to have a few
> people working on it to keep one version in place. This
> might not be the situation with Japan entries, in which case
> you can edit the entries in whichever way you see fit.
> As for Joe's comment, I was intersted in his proposal to
> have smaller wikis for certain subjects. I wasn't sure why
> this should be the case. Do you mean wikis with limited
> access so that only relative experts can contribute? If not,
> I would think the wikipedia architecture (barring the
> language issues) provides a pretty good space - any number
> of subcultures can exist on it.
> Take care
> Justin Jesty

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