User:AtionSong/Essays/On Pop Culture

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Section One: Introduction & Case Study[edit]

I have been categorized by many people as an internet geek, and I am okay with that. I don't spend an excessive amount of time on the internet (although this is arguable), but I generally am aware of a lot of cool websites and other things that other people are not, as well as part of various internet phenomena (I have a Wikipedia account, don't I?). This is why I have to question, at least slightly, the criterion used for determining whether a pop-culture related article should be included in Wikipedia.

In particular, I am a little upset over the recent deletion of the article on "The Game (game)". You know the game if you've ever been in a social gathering with friends, and one announced, "I just lost the game". It's that game. The article has had quite a bumpy ride in the struggle to remain as an article. About two and a half years ago, it was nominated for deletion, with a consensus of "keep". It was nominated again about a year later, with another "keep" consensus. It should be noted however, that the consensus was not close to unanimous in either case. A few months later, it was renominated with a "delete" consensus. The article was recreated, and had a "delete" consensus and a "delete" DRV. It was recreated again, and, a month later, was renominated for deletion with a "no consensus" consensus and a "no consensus" DRV. Three months later, there was another nomination with yet another "no consensus" vote. Finally, last month, it was nominated for deletion with a "delete", and currently, that is how the article space is.

However, the best indicator for the future is the past, and, without a doubt, somebody will recreate the article, and another string of deletion will occur. And the article will probably be deleted and recreated several more times in the future. This disturbs me, as time spent arguing and re-arguing VFDs is not constructive, and long arguments take away from the Wikipedia sense of community. But this pattern will undeniably continue for "The Game", and probably for other articles as well.

Section Two: The Problem With Pop Culture[edit]

Inclusion & Notability Guidelines[edit]

Wikipedia has a lot of guidelines, many of which are very straightforward. A quick and relevant example is the most basic guideline from WP:NOT:

Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia

Pretty easy to understand by itself. Basically, because there is no limit to Wikipedia, we do not need to be selective as to what and what does not qualify to be included in Wikipedia.

Ah, but this poses a logical problem, which is clearly evident to anybody with foresight. With the ability to create any possible article, there would be the people who would create articles on World War Two battles that would be found in any legitimate paper encyclopedia. Of course, there would also be the people who would make an article about their two person garage band that has met twice. The goal of an encyclopedia is to be a reference source, not a big holding tank of information. This is shown in another important point on the same page:

Wikipedia is not an indiscriminate collection of information

Now, there are several guidelines in place for what is to be considered a notable topic. First and foremost, there is the all-encompassing WP:NOTE guidelines. The main guideline on this page is:

[A] topic is notable if it has been the subject of multiple, non-trivial, reliable published works, whose sources are independent of the subject itself.

This is, clearly, the easiest and best guideline for establishing what is a notable topic. If something is being talked about, and an idea is being spread throughout, the general population, and people want to know more about it, it should constitute an article on Wikipedia.

A quick example of how this works, in reference to pop-culture articles. Take, for example, the article Neil Cicierega. Neil's success has been exclusively on the internet, and anybody who has been around will have seen some of his work. However, he is unknown to most of the general population. So, for most people, they would consider an article about him not notable. However, at the bottom of the page, there are links to two separate newspaper articles about Neil. Because these are "multiple, non-trivial, reliable published works, whose sources are independent of the subject itself", the subject can be considered notable.

Notability of Pop Culture Fads[edit]

A specific point is WP:NFT, stating:

Wikipedia is not for things made up in school one day

Pretty straightforward as well. If you and your friends come up with a funny catchphrase or game, you don't post about it on Wikipedia. Again, the only way for pop-culture article to be included in Wikipedia is if there have been numerous references.

The problem with this, however, is that many pop-culture phenomena, such as "The Game" are not the type of things that reliable news sources are interested in writing about. Why not? Because articles about a game played by even tens of thousands of teenagers around the world is not going to draw in viewers if it is as simple and casual game as "The Game". Perhaps if somebody was murdered over "The Game", but there is just no outlet for writing about "The Game" outside of personal blogs.

So, what if something is being ignored in the general news media? Should it also be ignored on Wikipedia? Is Wikipedia only allowed to cover topics also covered in the media? Currently, the answer is yes.

Section Three: Conclusion[edit]

What is Wikipedia?[edit]

The final guideline I'm going to bring up is WP:CRYSTAL, stating:

Wikipedia is not a crystal ball

This guideline is slightly more complicated. At its core, it is to prevent against speculative content in articles about future events. For example, it prevents against articles about upcoming books containing speculation about what the plot will be. If there is confirmation from the author on what the book is about, that is one thing, but, following another guideline, Wikipedia is not a place for original research or ideas. In addition, the guideline prevents a few other things, such as creation of articles about events far off in the future, or writing "future histories" on topics.

However, currently, Wikipedia is not only not a crystal ball, it is being used as a mirror. Instead of truly becoming an encyclopedia on all topics, it is constraining itself to only write about what others feel is important. Wikipedia has the opportunity to become the first source for information on fads and pop-culture. However, the problem remains of losing the prophylactic of articles only using reliable sources. Abolishing this rule would result in an opening of the floodgates for content breaching WP:NFT and WP:NOTE.

Proposed Solution[edit]

So, what's the solution then? Just put all pop-culture articles up for deletion? Well, I feel that the answer may be right there.

Take a look at this most recent debate. At the top, the reviewing admin notes:

The result was delete. I could opt-out and take the easy path (close as "no consensus"), but that would be wrong. The arguments to delete are plenteous and well-argued, while the keep arguments are (save one or two) entirely unconvincing.

But, in reality, both the keep and delete arguments are essentially the same. The keep arguments say that "The Game" is a huge phenomenon at schools around the world, but has not made it into the news yet. The delete arguments say "The Game" is only known at schools around the world, and has not yet made it into the news.

So, should this lack of sources instantly condemn "The Game" to deletion, because Rupert Murdock does not know about it? My proposal is that, no, it should not, as evidenced in the deletion debate. It is true that the debate was split about sixty / thirty among deletes and keeps. Looking historically back at all the various debates about "The Game" article, the votes are about fifty / fifty, with only slightly more votes for delete, even including possible unreliable keep votes.

There are two ways to take this information. You can click your tongue and say, "Well isn't it terrible that with five or six policies staring them in the eye against this article, people will still vote for 'Keep'. What is wrong with these people?" This point is entirely valid, and, even supporting the article, I cannot deny in the least that this is true.

However, there is another way to view this information as well. Somebody can look at over three years of debate and say, "In all these arguments, without any coverage in mass media or on highly visited webpages, half of the users had heard of 'The Game' and had thought it important enough to warrant its own article."

This article is not specifically about "The Game", and unfortunately, at this point, it cannot specifically offer a solution about pop-culture topics that have not yet made it to the news. It just asks that people who are reading this take a step back and consider for a second what Wikipedia is all about. Wikipedia is a display of how when people get together and make decisions, 99.99% of the time, they choose correctly. So, would it not make sense that if, in a discussion, half of the debates say that something is real and important, that it may just be?