Monday, March 12, 2007

Trying to edit Wikipedia a frustrating process

Lately, I have been working with an arts foundation down in Oija, California that asked me to create an educational history website using historical figures created by artist/historian George S. Stuart as the basis for articles featured there. I was so impressed with the quality of the figures and the meticulous research that goes into their creation that I obtained permission from the foundation's photographer to upload 200X300pixel versions of the images to Wikicommons so they could be used to illustrate biographies in Wikipedia. The photographer, Mr. Peter D'Aprix, granted full rights for their use with the only requirement being attribution and share-alike for any derivatives.

However, when I attempted to include them in some of the biographical articles, I quickly discovered an apparent bias against the inclusion of contemporary art that is not widely known. This resulted in removal of the images within hours of inclusion. A guideline was posted to my talk page pointing out that external links to .com sources are not permitted (I had linked the artist's name to his website). I was not aware of this restriction so I removed the link and added the image back to the article. Then, I was told by another editor that he thought the images did not add anything to the article since the article already had pictures of contemporary portraits. I was aware of the contemporary portraits but many of them were highly stylized and did not provide a life-like representation like the figural images did. I added information about the year and age the portrait figure represented, consistent with the captions provided under the other portraits but again the other editor blew my edits away. I questioned his apparent censorship expressed by his rationale that the art was not widely known so had no basis for inclusion and told him I thought the internet was a place anyone could exercise their creativity without obtaining elitist-recognized status before their work could be placed before the public. But, apparently not, at least not on Wikipedia. I requested a third-party opinion and hoped my viewpoint would be shared by other editors. However, some responses to my request referred to the figures as "dolls" as did the editor I was having problems with. Despite the other reasons that were offered, I think the bias against what are perceived as "dolls" as an art form (Mr. Stuart would shudder at the description of his art form as "dolls") is the real nub of the issue. Art is ultimately in the eye of the beholder but apparently some of these editors don't wish to offer anyone else the chance to make that personal decision.

After reading a number of other contentious posts between editors arguing over points of view, relevance, etc. I realized that although Wikipedia sounds inviting (anyone can edit!) the reality is it is an environment frought with self-appointed experts who fiercely defend their fiefdoms and, in some cases, their extremely inflexible mindsets.
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