By Mark Frauenfelder at 11:12 am Fri, Sep 10, 2010
James Bridle published "the 12,000 edits made to the controversial Wikipedia entry for the Iraq War between December 2004 to November 2009 as a 7,000 page, 12 volume set of books."
Archiving Iraq: One Wikipedia Entry's Edit Wars, Printed in 12 Volumes
I’m sure I won’t be the first to say it: 
I wonder what the full printout would cost.
It should be part of any historical collection on the Iraq War.
Wow. At first I was gonna make a joke asking if there’d be a forthcoming Kindle edition, but it occurs to me that this isn’t so much an example of the traditional handsomely-bound war chronicle, but more a handsomely bound history of the crowdsourced creation of a war chronicle.
This is doubtless an invaluable document for the dawn of the 21st century (though maybe not my idea of essential toilet-tank reading), but has its like ever been seen on the face of the earth before? The chronological evolution of an account of a war, opinions and facts and wild speculations tossed back and forth at each other, grinding against each other, and eventually forging what I guess we’ll have to consider the consensus view of history (as of time of publication, anyway).
And yet that story evolves still. I’m kinda taken aback by this thing, as must be apparent. Usually we get to see the sausage as it exits the factory, and not so much the inner workings of the factory itself. At least, not all collected and collated and bound and such.
In short: neat. But weird.
What a bizarre concept. Taking something so astonishingly ephemeral as a changelog, and trapping it in sheaves of dead tree.
It’s certainly interesting, if odd. How very fetishistic.
Does this constitute a history/chronicle of the War itself, or rather is it a meta-history/meta-chronicle (that is to say, a history/chronicle of the writing of how a history/chronicle of the War has changed, or evolved)?
I suspect it may be more the latter, than the former.
Yeah, like you said. I guess that’s why it occurred to someone to publish it. It’s a pretty nifty way to show future generations (or whoever) the controversies involved in our national (and international) discussions of the war. Otherwise, they’d just print out the most-current Wikipedia entry itself, I guess.
You’re right – that’s why it is titled a historiography and not a history.
Is there a Wikipedia entry for this fine set of books?
It’s always fun to see then current moods reflected in the reporting and it can really show which way the wind is blowing. The most famous example is probably the changing tone of the headlines of a Parisian newspaper as Napoleon left his first exile and marched on Paris :
March 10: The Corsican ogre has landed at Cape Juan.
March 11: The tiger is in Gap. Troops are on their way and will stop him. He will end his miserable adventure as a homeless refugee in the mountains.
March 12: The monster succeeded in proceeding to Grenoble.
March 13: The tyrant is now in Lyon. Horror has caught the people.
March 18: The usurper is some daysâ€™ march distant from Paris.
March 19: Bonaparte approaches in a hurry, but he will not succeed in advancing to Paris.
March 20: Napoleon will be in Paris tomorrow.
March 21: Emperor Napoleon is in Fontainebleau.
March 22: Yesterday evening His Majesty celebrated his arrival in Paris. The jubilation cannot be described.
So this set of books is of genuine historical intrest.
What Donald said in his first comment.
Also – Forkboy, thanks for that – very interesting. It made me wonder why we get so worked up when we read newspapers or articles on the internet.
Next up: rare edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica that had the “show revisions” option enabled in the word processor.
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