History, historiography and Wikipedia

The Iraq War: Wikipedia Historiography

I’ve been doing some talking and thinking about post-digital recently. A big part of this involves how our
everyday lives have been – and are being – shaped by exposure to online networks and how this
immersion in networks of practice permeates into our real-world thinking.

Usually this is best revealed through our behaviour
and expectations, but colleague and friend Chris Applegate pointed me towards this
awe-inspiring blog post
by James Bridle that seems to neatly invert the notion of post-digital by
re-imagining a very digital product through a very non-digital channel.

Specifically, the James has published in book-form the entire series of edits made to the Wikipedia article on the Iraq War across a five year period from December 2004 to November 2009 – from invasion/liberation to retreat/victory. 

The series totals 12 volumes and incorporates a total of 12,000 changes and almost 7,000 pages. It's truly awesome.

This idea absolutely inspired me. It sets out and makes tangible the idea of history not as a fixed entity of knowledge for knowing, but as a historiography; a
fluid discourse; a body of knowledge in flux.

Ex-Cluetrainee and Berkman Center Fellow,
David Weinberger, in his book Everything is Miscellaneous, terms this process social
the blogger in question, James Bridle, puts it more eloquently when he states that Wikipedia is:

"not only a resource for collating all
human knowledge, but a framework for understanding how that knowledge came to
be and to be understood; what was allowed to stand and what was not; what we
agree on, and what we cannot.

I cannot agree more.

Call it what you will, the sooner we – and particularly those in positions of authority, influence and power – can recognise and accept that the representation and manifestation of knowledge and
power is a dynamic, fluid, process that yields meaning and suggests outcomes that change over time, the sooner contemporary society will

Just Do It! A ground-breaking film of utmost importance

This blog post is a long time coming and for that I apologise.

Friend and film-maker, Emily James, is working on a ground-breaking film of utmost importance and I would urge you all to check it out. You can watch their latest trailer below:

Called Just Do It, the film follows three organisations, two loose affiliations and one domestic extremist from the streets of London during last year’s G20 protests, north to Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station in Nottinghamshire and even further north to the UN COP 15 climate summit in Copenhagen… with an array of other diverse locations in-between.

It’s a ground-breaking film because the enterprise is entirely crowd-funded with both finance and other resources souced from a wider community – both on and offline. 

This methodology-cum-ethos stems not just from the network effect driven by an Internet-connected community but by a deeper motivation that will ensure the integrity of the project. As the film’s website explains, community-led production:

“embodies the spirit and culture of
the movement that we are portraying. By applying community-led
alternatives to existing production models we encourage the measure of
the film’s success to be defined by how much it contributes to a genuine
cultural shift, rather than by box office takings. We’re making a film
that isn’t commercial, probably wouldn’t be profitable, but nonetheless needs to be made.

Not only that, as well as keeping production community-based, the film’s distribution will also rely entirel;y on the same approach to achieve its objective: to be seen my 1m people in 2011.

To do this the makers have a plan:

“The film will be released under a Creative Commons,
non-commercial license. We will distribute the film via free internet
downloads, free-ish DVDs, film festivals and guerrilla screenings …
This is filmmaking as politics, as well as a film about politics.”

In addition it’s a film of utmost importance as it highlights the work being done by groups and individuals in the UK – and as part of a global network – to address the issue of climate justice.

With global corporations and world governments to tackle man-made climate change following the failure of the COP 15 summit the film is a call to action demonstarting how (extra)ordinary people doing (extra)ordinary things can achieve more than they could imagine possible.

In Emily’s words:

“It urges people not to wait for
others to act on their behalf, but to intervene when they see injustice,
to take action against all odds and ultimately Just Do It.”

With all this in mind it’s vital that the film makes it to completion, which is where you come in.

There are a number of ways you can get involved and help make the film a reality, from donating some time or expertise to handing over some much needed funds.

There are a number of tasty incentives to encourage you to get involved and the all important FAQs about where your money will go.

What are you waiting for? Just Do It!

Is the ASA’s new online remit a missed opportunity?

As has been widely reported, the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), has extended its remit to include online marketing communications.

While an argument can be made for a need to extend the ASA’s remit to cover websites as well as online ads I’m not entirely convinced that the attempt to pin down marketing communications is the best approach to regulating social media.

The ASA's media release tells us that their new remit will cover:

  • Advertisers' own marketing communications on their own websites and;
  • Marketing communications in other non-paid-for space under
    their control, such as social networking sites like Facebook and

Journalistic and editorial content and material related to causes
and ideas – except those that are direct solicitations of donations for
fund-raising – are excluded from the remit.

There are two things that need clarifying here:

  1. what exactly is marketing communications
  2. how does it differ from editorial?

Ask any PR professional how marketing communications differs from editorial and the they'll tell you that the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive.

Possibly, the ASA has taken marketing communications as overt communications marketing products, services or brands, e.g. "Buy this cream and it'll make you thin!" but then that risks taking a very narrow definition of marketing communications.

Further evidence for this comes to life in the IAB's FAQs on the ASA's new remit. They state that the guidelines won't cover "press releases or other PR material" – a notion that at best shows some vagueness about what PR is and does, and at worst reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the industry.

Even if the ASA has somewhere unpicked the finer points of PR then how can marketing communications (regulated) be adequately differentiated from 'editorial' (not regulated)?

Add to this the convergence of media in online social spaces and there's even more complexity.

For example, what happens when the public starts engaging with brands and discussing products or services on brand owned spaces? And then when brands respond with neither editorial or marketing communications – e.g. general conversation on Twitter – and what about passionate members of the public that are brand advocates and start evangelising about a brand or product – is that marketing communications?

The ASA's new remit, it could be argued, is a missed opportunity to truly understand and attempt to strengthen regulation of marketing activity in the online space – a worthy initiative given they claim websites were the second most complained about marketing channel last year.

Brand Republic says that the new guidelines are a "fudge". But it's a fudge that could have potentially been avoided – or at least – addressed directly.

Back in May, the Chartered Institute of Public RelationsSocial Media Advisory Panel [Disc. I'm a member] approached the IAB which is represented on the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) to request that the PR industry be involved in development of the new code.

Given the centrality of ‘editorial’ and ‘marketing communications' in the new regulations we felt it was appropriate, if not essential, to input and have the vice of the PR industry.

While we were given the undertaking that the views of the PR industry would be heard it seems that this wasn’t to be the case. Of course, we could have gone direct to the ASA but a dialogue had already been opened.

The CIPR has issued a statement which articulates some of its major concerns, which I've pasted below.

But to me it seems that the ASA has missed an opportunity to think coherently about social media and implement an effective regulatory approach to the online space, not to mention a potentially naïve assumption by the ASA as to the role of PR, marketing communications and editorial in contemporary society.

Here's the CIPR's statement in full:

Chartered Institute for Public Relations (CIPR) policy statement on the proposed regulation of social networks/media by the ASA

The Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) recognises the importance of protecting the online public from unscrupulous businesses and organisations, however the Chartered body representing the PR profession has concerns regarding the planned extension of the remits of the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) and Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to cover online communications.

The advertising industry is concerned with advertising messaging that is one-way.  Social networks involve dialogue and frequently ‘editorial’ content.   

We believe that the ASA's remit does not extend to moderating the freedom of speech so closely associated with social media such as Twitter, Facebook and websites   Any definition of advertising should be scoped so as to avoid censoring the ability of citizens and consumers to enjoy the free on-line dialogue they have come to expect.

The CIPR also has reservations about changes to the CAP Code and the way the ASA's new and extended remit has been planned. Any changes to the UK's current regulatory frameworks affecting how the public relations profession conducts its business should be developed through close consultation with the chartered body of the public relations profession. Given the significance these proposed changes will have for public relations, marketing and social media professionals, the CIPR believes that the ASA should be working together with the CIPR to develop fair and workable regulations that work with and supports broader, existing frameworks such as the CIPR Code of Conduct and social media guidelines.

The CIPR approached the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) which is represented on the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) in May of this year and were given the undertaking that the views of the PR industry would be heard.  "We are disappointed this action has been taken without our involvement.”  

Wikileaks: 10 Theses by Lovink & Riemens

Geert Lovink and Patrice Riemens have posted a really interesting analysis of Wikileaks – which is well timed given the current traditional mass media attention.

Their 10 theses begins with some basic reading for those new to wikileaks or crowd-sourced, collaborative investigative journalism that paces it firmly in a time-worn tradition:

These 1:

"[…] Disclosures and leaks have been of all times, but never before has non state- or non- corporate affiliated group done ever before has a non state- or non- corporate affiliated group done this at the scale Wikileaks managed to with the 'Afghan War Logs'.”

Given the current media hype around Wikileaks and the War in Iraq, Lovink and Riemens inject some critical reflection into the debate:

“Nonetheless,” they argue:

“we believe that this is more something of a quantitative leap than of a qualitative one. […] In the ongoing saga termed "The Decline of the US Empire", Wikileaks enters the stage as the slayer of a soft target. It would be difficult to imagine it doing quite the same to the Russian or Chinese  
government, or even to that of Singapore – not to speak of their … 
err… 'corporate' affiliates. Here distinct, and huge, cultural and  
linguistic barriers are at work, not to speak of purely power-related ones, that would need to be surmounted."

Lovink and Riemen's Theses are broad and searching and help any social media evangelists place the current Wikileaks phenomenon into perspective. A must read.