Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Conformity and the Well-Lit

I read WikiTruth, I admit, keeping an eye on their recent pages. They're one of the most out-there Wikipedia-hating sites, by and large venting frustration and anger rather than thoughtfully criticising. They're probably about as close to a tabloid as anything I'll regularly read, and part of me is wondering if they'll ever decide that I'm a worthwhile target. Among their accusations is that many people who do important things and are prominent on Wikipedia are odd people. One person apparently had a sex-change operation and doesn't like Scientology, another explores all sorts of gothness while out clubbing, and of course Jimbo's involvement with Bomis (which among other things published softcore pr0n) are all given a moment in the spotlight. Some of these things are bound to piss off some portion of the population, but I don't see any of them as being criticism of the project itself, nor that any of the things mentioned above are reprehensible. As I may have mentioned, I do find sex-change operations kind of odd in intent and when I know it I call people by their genetic gender, but cosmetic operations and foreign hormones don't actually bother me. The political spectrum of people on Wikipedia is similarly broad and not representative of America (the world?) as a whole, but this is at least partly because geek subculture is where Wikipedians often come from, and we're less conformist and have a different average from the population as a whole. Part of this is also a gender gap. (I'm tempted to link to, but ESR, the present maintainer, is a bit kooky and wants to paint himself in the centre of modern geekdom) I think that the real difference we see between Wikipedia and other admins, outside of cultural differences, is that by and large we tend to be a lot more open about our lives than older generations. Older Wikipedians, like Jimbo, may try to deemphasise their past to earn the respect of older, more private generations (and their cultural institutions like traditional media) and suits, but many younger folk, like myself, don't think it's a big deal to expose our personal lives in deep detail to the world. I'm not out to shock anyone -- if it happens, so be it, but I don't feel a need to mention in all my blog posts or on every page of my website everything that might cause conservative people to dislike me. I am, however, not ashamed of these things, and those who dig through everything I've said (or those who ask) can find out most of it. I believe that eventually we'll have a much more open society because of this, and hopefully corporate, nonindividual culture will fade into the past. We may not remain within what conservatives think as decent, but I think we'll eventually be honest and open about who we are (and what bothers us -- openness does not necessarily mean we'll be universally tolerant). If somebody has operations and takes hormones to feel more in touch with who they think they are, another person has taken anti-depressants for their whole life, and another person sometimes crossdresses at goth clubs, I don't think that's a big deal, and the attempts to make a big deal about these things will likely look increasingly juvenile as societal attitudes shift.

When I was younger, I accepted my parents' criticism that I was deliberately being weird in some ways I think and live my life -- now, I have the years and perspective to understand that I was at the head of the cultural shift, a larger than normal generation/culture gap. I wonder if the gaps have moved closer again with those born more recently or not, or if they're becoming increasingly large.


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