I think I mentioned once before that one of my sister’s uni lecturers once punk’d her class by banning the use of wikipedia in assignments and then placing false information in the relevant entries to track who ignored their instructions.
The growing reliance of mainstream media on the user generated encyclopedia has been beautifully exploited by one man’s little piece of poetic justice.
Shane Fitzgerald edited the entry for French composer Maurice Jarre hours after his death to include the following quote:
“One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear.”
This quote hit obituaries in major media outlets all over the country almost immediately – although it was removed from the wikipedia entry within hours.
Fitzgerald came clean – and here’s the story being reported in the SMH – with this quote:
“I am 100 per cent convinced that if I hadn’t come forward, that quote would have gone down in history as something Maurice Jarre said, instead of something I made up,” he said. “It would have become another example where, once anything is printed enough times in the media without challenge, it becomes fact.”
While I’m not suggesting that there’s a culture of feeding purposefully false information into wikipedia one only has to look through the history of changes to Scott Minto’s profile to know that it’s a pretty regular occurrence.
The bit in Fitzgerald’s quote about stuff being printed becoming “truth” is interesting, and it makes Wikipedia an important element of a PR campaign if you want a nice endorsement of your key messages. Wikipedia is a triumph in post-modern market driven thinking where truth really is up in the air and able to be determined by the market – which is perfect if your job is to manipulate or shape a message.
That is all.