Edit. Wiki. Lit. Order. Exclamation. Event. Using hash tags has affected the way I write. Non-sequitur. Apropos of nothing. Rocking Horse.
On the 3rd of February last, as part of the Contemporary Research Skills Module of the MA I’m taking at UCC, I took part in the MA Wikipedia Editathon. The aim of the event was to exercise our social media, editing, and writing skills. And have same assessed. My chosen topic was the poet, Michael Hartnett , whose poetry I will be writing my thesis on this summer. That’s a link to his Wiki page by the way. Gordian knot anyone? I had never edited a Wiki page prior to the event. Constant listener, first time caller.
Truthfully, I was a bit abashed at the prospect. Who am I to delete, to add to, to summarize a complex life? In one sense it’s a simple enough process. Scrolling, cutting, typing, virtually pritt-sticking a picture or three. In another, more meaningful one, it is daunting. Add to the official repository of knowledge. On a Wednesday morning. Before your first coffee. That’s me conceptualizing Wikipedia as carved stone, when in fact it’s malleable putty. These things matter to me however. I know they matter to others.
I deleted all reference to his alcoholism. Tidied up some of the existing text. Inserted a publishing history which I feel is a vital resource. I didn’t add an essay I prepared the night before. I include here screenshots of the Wiki page prior to my intervention. Sands of cyberspace now blown to the Wiki winds. At time of publishing no further editor has shaped the putty.
I’ve been reading The Song of the Earth, by Jonathan Bate recently. It’s a very fine book. As you’d expect. Oxford. Harvard. Yale. His writing style is replete with the ego of the academic. The ego required to set forth, to criticize, to create out of others’ work something new, fresh, illuminating. I have that ego too. When the wind blows just so. Not on that morning. Not in that context, the communal creation of content. Or this context perhaps. I gained that self-knowledge from that morning if nothing else.
I envy those of my classmates who seem to be able to produce content in a live setting: live-tweeting, live-blogging. In conceptualising my own academic writing as more solitary and ruminative, am I merely making excuses for skills I lack? A more pessimistic analysis to counter my declaration of a Bate-like ego just now. Avowal and accusation.