[Air-l] Online graffiti

Jimmy Wales jwales at wikia.com
Mon May 15 07:41:58 PDT 2006

Andrea Forte wrote:
> The "graffiti" on Wikipedia is definitely defacement. There are rules that
> govern activity on Wikipedia, often vandals act in violation of them.
> Contributions to the encyclopedia are not graffiti--that's just painting a
> wall. ;-) I don't think it would be terribly difficult to study the kinds
> of defacement that happen on Wikipedia. I also think it would be
> interesting to know more about why and when people vandalize as the site
> is charged with a lot of political and social meaning for different
> people.

Speaking very loosely, I think we can identify several sorts of grafitti
within Wikipedia, just as I suppose we can identify several sorts in the
real world.

First, the articles themselves and normal contributions can't really be
classed as grafitti.

Second, even highly POV ('point of view', 'biased') edits, made either
innocently because someone can't recognize their own biases, or
deliberately by someone who doesn't understand or accept our culture of
neutrality, are also not really what I would think of as grafitti.

Third, we normally do not think of "sand boxing" (newbie
experimentation) as grafitti, either.  The link says 'edit this page',
many people don't believe it, and try it with "hi mom", and find
themselves shocked that it actually went on the site.   This is not like
grafitti -- no one tests pens in bathroom stalls and finds themselves
shocked that you can actually write there (or spray paint on a wall).

Grafitti would include:

1. Simple vandalism, with malicious intent (fuck you!)
2. Simple vandalism, with political intent (fuck george bush!)
3. attempts at insider humor (poking fun at wikipedians, wikipedians
poking fun at ourselves)
4. trolling


Well, this is just speaking loosely.

More information about the Air-l mailing list