relation between indymedia and wikipedia
Someone quite active in wikipedia and living in the US wishes to discuss the relation between indymedia and wikipedia. Hopefully this is a reasonable place to discuss this. If not, please feel free to shift this to a better wikipage (e.g. on wikimedia?). The initial conversation was non-virtual, so quotes (the headers here) are from this non-virtual conversation.
What is indymedia?
The person i discussed with mostly was thinking of
- the global site http://www.indymedia.org which has central column articles which are mostly the work of a small (but completely open) group of moderators on the www-features mailing list
- one local site http://sf.indymedia.org (or maybe http://www.indybay.org - the sf group split up into two groups recently)
Neither the global site nor any single local site represent indymedia in general - any bunch of people who are willing to get together various local groups defending one or more human rights (the definition of human rights is quite wide, but it is not just hand-waving, it's stated in plain English) and/or ecological rights by making local media in a radically transparent way, is welcome to ask for networking support and become officially part of the indymedia network. (Actually, the definition in terms of human rights and ecological rights is my own personal vision, it's not any consensed-upon description of indymedia - there is a lot of diversity in indymedia so almost everybody has their own different vision... - and you can look up the http://docs.indymedia.org to find more consensed-on documents.) There is no restriction on what software to use, so if a new local group wanted to use a wikisite to make, e.g. IMC Florida, or IMC Miami, that should be perfectly acceptable to the network. Of course, there is a process - radically transparent like on wikipedia - of communication so that people get to know each other and so that as the numbers of participants get bigger, things can scale up and auto-organise and remain as horizontal and transparent as possible. There's also an idea of what a minimum set of criteria for what getting to know each other is - since, e.g., having absolute freedom would potentially mean that groups promoting racism, homophobia etc could become part of the network. Anyway, see http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Global/NewImcHowTo for a wiki guide to organising a new local indymedia collective.
"Indymedia seems to promote violence"
i guess i would have to see specific examples if we want to make a specific analysis.
In general terms, IMHO both wikipedia and indymedia present information which supports the idea that in certain cases violence is justified for self-defence. There are numerous flags of nation-states on wikipedia, and these are (nearly) all associated with organisations (nation-states) which use lethal force, and also lesser forms of violence, in ways which the state says is a minimum necessary amount of violence in order to satisfy the common interests of the citizens of that nation-state. At the same time, there are lots of articles on organisations or historical actions by people opposing violence at various levels.
In local indymedia groups, it seems to me that the situation is similar: most people abhor the use of violence in general, some refuse violence absolutely (i.e. refuse the existence of armies, police, non-state terrorists), some say that privileged people do not have the right to impose non-violence on victims of oppression (e.g. to take an extreme example, during WWII would it have been right to tell the Jews that they should use non-violence to defend themselves?), some say that while violence in self-defence may be possible in principle, in most practical situations, violence is simply bad as a tactic, independently of any moral questions.
So i don't see any obvious difference between wikipedia and indymedia regarding violence.
"indymedia is political, while wikipedia is neutral"
Is wikipedia really neutral?
- Wikipedia is quite explicitly biased in favour of NPOV. Sure, i personally strongly support NPOV as defined in wikipedia, but that does not stop it from being a bias. Anyone who's had any practical experience in just about any small organisation (by small i mean even just a dozen people or so) will probably have noticed that there are certain things about which the community or group states that these things just should not be said, or that attempts to present the various points of view are said to be troublemaking and the the most unbiased point of view is said to be that of the leader. So a wikipedia style NPOV in many real social contexts would be very controversial, and would be labelled as biased by those with power and by those afraid to criticise those in power. Of course, once the NPOV concept becomes widely known and supported, it will (hopefully) become widely accepted, and will become to be seen as neutral. However, in the present world of organisations (of all sorts), the NPOV is an extremely radical political choice.
- If someone wants to publish explicitly racist statements on the wikipedia, IMHO these would get quickly removed, in the languages where there is a sufficient number of people sensitive to the subject, or they would at least be quickly NPOVed to X said that .... So wikipedia is not neutral regarding encyclopedic statements supporting racism. In my own experience (which of course is just a small part of indymedia), the situation is similar in local indymedia sites - if someone quotes someone else making a racist statement and it is put in context, it would most likely not be hidden; if someone comes out with racist statements as fact, in general it has a good chance of being hidden if someone makes the effort to propose that this be done.
- And, of course, wikipedia is explicitly biased in favour of knowledge from people with internet access, and in practice, to knowledge from people with uninterrupted connections to the internet.
Is this a big bias? Surely, experts generally have good internet access, and that's sufficient to get good quality articles?
Not quite true. There are experts in general relativity in India (university in New Delhi) who (as of around 2000/2001 anyway) only had rather expensive modem connections and in practice only use email, rarely the web.
More importantly, the experts in social and political themes are those people concerned by those social and political policies or events. Who are the experts in famine? Experts in the United Nations and NGOs know quite a bit, it's true, but the people suffering from the famine know even more. They have first-hand knowledge which, in general, they will not be able to integrate into wikipedia articles. So far, very few of them can integrate the knowledge into indymedia as well, but this is why indymedia is supposed to go well beyond the internet.
Who are the experts in knowing what people desire in their concept of a good life? Surely those people themselves know what's good for them. Homeless people generally know that they would prefer not to be homeless. But when they don't have internet access, they cannot modify internet pages to write about the living conditions of homeless people in the area they live.
In principle, indymedia tries to overcome these biases by having local meetings, and the internet aspect is that, in theory, it's enough for a few people in a local collective to have internet access, as long as the general group has transparent, non-hierarchical methods of decision-making in face-to-face meetings and trusts those few to use the internet in a way consistent with consensus decisions by the group. In practice, the non-internet aspect happens (on the information output side) to some extent by print editions, radio stations, public showing of videos; of course, this does not necessarily cover the information input side.
Anyway, whether or not indymedia really achieves overcoming this bias, it does claim to try to overcome it; while wikipedia does not.
Is Indymedia left-wing and Wikipedia neutral?
This depends on how one defines left-wing. Certainly, neither indymedia nor wikipedia say that the content must be or should be left-wing. However, both have certain mechanisms and principles of how content is generated, and depending on whether you judge these mechanisms or the results of the mechanisms to be left-wing, one or both can be said to be left-wing in these senses.
Given that both encourage the participation of everyone (who has good internet access and) who thinks s/he has access to synthetic knowledge (wikipedia) or to current event knowledge (indymedia), indepedently of wealth (apart from internet connectivity), both are in this sense much more left-wing than any commercial or governmental encyclopedias or news media. To the extent that left-wing means equality, both are left-wing in this sense.
Given that in addition, indymedia explicitly is supposed to be anchored in local, grassroots groups with face-to-face open, public meetings - where people with poor or zero internet access can both contribute content and receive content (and participate in decision-making), it could be argued to be more left-wing than wikipedia in this sense, since it makes a much more explicit effort to overcome the internet barrier. In practice, people with good internet access (at least on mailing lists) still generally dominate indymedia groups, and wikipedia would like to go well beyond the internet, e.g. with circulation of printed copies, so the practical differences are probably weaker than the theoretical differences here.
Is Indymedia right-wing and Wikipedia neutral?
This depends on how one defines right-wing. Certainly, neither indymedia nor wikipedia say that the content must be or should be right-wing. However, both have certain mechanisms and principles of how content is generated, and depending on whether you judge these mechanisms or the results of the mechanisms to be right-wing, one or both can be said to be right-wing in these senses.
In the sense that right-wing means put the priority on my personal interests and my local culture, both indymedia and wikipedia are fairly right-wing, in the sense that people (with internet access) have the ability to directly prioritise content on local themes. In this sense, indymedia is probably more right-wing than wikipedia, since the concept of autonomy of geographically local groups is very strong: the indymedia network is very reluctant to impose any decisions on local groups, and in practice simply cannot impose any decision on local groups (the focus is instead on lots of communication and clarification and explanation, so that if a global proposal is a good one, local groups will accept it because it's a good proposal; if not, local groups will modify the proposal until it becomese mutually acceptable). In contrast, the only localisation of wikipedia (so far) relates to language, which is (for the main languages used on the wikipedias so far, as of July 2004) much less local than the regions for indymedia - which are often cities, but sometimes correspond to nation-states.
For example, http://fr.wikipedia.org is in the process of creating an association of the law of 1901 which is more less focussed on the French nation-state even though it's encouraging general French language participation; while local city indymedia groups around France are not (as of July 2004 anyway) grouped together as Indymedia France (apart from a portal), but instead focussed on cities, including in some cases, cross-border regions. In this case, indymedia is more right-wing than wikipedia.
Of course, some very local language wikipedias have started, and in some cases these are more localised than the related indymedia collectives (e.g. http://csb.wikipedia.org is a local language in the north of Poland, but http://pl.indymedia.org still more or less corresponds to the nation-state of the third Polish Republic).
Of course, the difference with the conventional right-wing concept of put the priority on my personal interests and my local culture in wikipedia and indymedia is that the localisation is not to the detriment of other local cultures and interests: conflicts are resolved by better communication, not by people killing each other.
"Would indymedia publish an article by G W Bush?"
Of course, each local indymedia decides locally according to its defined and published editorial policy. Some local collectives might argue that what one famous person states is not in itself first-hand news, since (at least in the case of G W Bush) it's mostly just the work of political aides who work behind the scenes in preparing a speech designed to maximise the chance of retaining political power, it has only a weak relation to reporting on real-world events. In any case, in twenty seconds on google, i found at least one bush speech published on a local indymedia site.
"Would indymedia be willing to use wikis for publishing?"
The priority is supposed to be on local indymedias - there is absolutely nothing (except the need for techies to implement this) stopping any local indymedia group from using wiki software for either its open publishing newswire or for its synthetical centre column articles. Introduce yourself to your local indymedia group, and once you've made a reasonable effort to RTFM about consensus decisions made by the group so far and you've been to a face-to-face meeting to get to know people a bit more, make a proposal to use wikis for either the open publishing newswire and/or the centre column. Just because you're new does not give you less right to make a proposal - indymedia groups are explicitly meant to be open collectives.
To have wikis on the centre-column of the global site, you should first participate in a local group - indymedia is supposed to be bottom-up, and there's also simply the limit of how many people can discuss together to make decisions - 30-100 people is about the maximum reasonable, 1000 or more people is impossible unless people split up into groups.
If there is no local indymedia group where you live, see http://docs.indymedia.org/view/Local/NewImcHowTo and get into contact with a variety of individuals and groups where you live, get organised, and following the suggestions in NewImcHowTo you should be able to become part of the network. If you propose using a wiki, maybe even the same software as wikipedia, for your new local indymedia, e.g. Newtown.indymedia.org and the variety of individuals makes a consensus decision on this, that would be perfectly acceptable (and this choice might eventually be copied by old or new indymedia groups.)
Boud 12:58, 16 Jul 2004 (UTC)
Bad impression of Indymedia
My opinion of Wikipedia is much, much higher than my opinion of Indymedia. Every single comment I have ever appended to an Indymedia article has been deleted. None of my comments were rude, spamming, or off-topic. My only crime was that I disagreed with the POV of the post I was commenting on. I would hate to see this habit of censorship disseminate from Indymedia to Wikipedia.Verklempt 04:50, 3 September 2007 (UTC)
- Oh, you right-wing trouble makers .... I have to agree with you. Although my local indy group doesn't that use overt cenzorship, it's very much radical left-wing. Sometimes it even publishes from people whose opinion is quite different from the indymedia-mainstream. --Zslevi (talk) 02:03, 30 March 2008 (UTC)
Good Impression of Indymedia
I have have very much enjoyed and benefited from the work of Indymedia, specifically the main site. While I do appreciate some points made above, I do find in my experience that Indymedia and Wikipedia have different goals for their projects, which can set them on divergent courses. 126.96.36.199 (talk) 17:08, 4 February 2008 (UTC)