Sunday, September 16, 2007

Antisocial Darwinism: Diversity and Wikicide

The popular CBS series, Survivor, illustrates the political drama of the elimination of one's rivals by voting them off the island.

The term, Social Darwinism, reflects a more conventional version of that political practice, when it comes to extinguishing an unwanted socio-cultural lineage. In the worst case, Social Darwinism devolves into Ethnic Cleansing and even Genocide. On the other side, there is the celebration of Cultural Diversity.

At the intersection of politics, culture, and religion, those of us with a scientific or journalistic perspective find no shortage of human phenomena to observe and chronicle.

On the other hand the practice of observing and chronicling the phenomenon of Social Darwinism can sometimes subject a scientist or journalist to a firsthand experience of being voted off the island.

A good example is the case of Judd Bagley vs Gary Weiss.

Judd Bagley is one of the principals behind OverStock.Com, a commercial website that remarkets surplus retail merchandise. Incidentally, Bagley is also the owner of another website, AntiSocialMedia.Net, which levels criticisms at writers who "abuse social media for personal gain." In Veni, Vidi, Wiki, Bagley turns his sights on a business journalist, Gary Weiss, whom Bagley also identifies as a frequent contributor to Wikipedia. Bagley's criticisms of Wikipedian practices and ethics is so scathing and so stinging, that neutral editors on Wikipedia can't decide how to present the controversy in Wikipedia's own article on OverStock.Com and Judd Bagley. Some editors want to brand AntiSocialMedia.Net a "Bad Site" and forbid its mention on Wikipedia. Other editors adopt the view that if a Wikipedia article is going to mention and characterize AntiSocialMedia.Net, then the article should include a live link to the so-called "Bad Site." The editors have taken their impasse to arbitration on Wikipedia.

Without passing on the merits of the charges and counter-charges arising in the above kerfuffle, there does appear to be some kind of liminal social drama in play regarding cultural diversity, freedom to publish responsible criticism, and Wikicide.

Whether Wikicide refers to critics killing off Wikipedia, or Wikipedia killing off its critics remain to be discovered.

After they finish voting each other off the island, there may not be any survivors at all.

There may not even be any island left when this war is over.

See, for example, this proposal to supplant Wikipedia by a more intelligently designed system:

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