Wikipedia by Rob Matthews, 2009
5000 pages, fully printed
The wonderful world of the interweb is evermore glorious when reminded of the sheer vastness of information that it contains. Even more impressive is the notion that it’s all held together by a seemingly haphazard yet infinitesimally detailed overlapping of data that spans across networks in an ordered fashion. What better example of this than in the pages of Wikipedia, the massively successful partner of the now defunct encyclopedic project Nupedia, which too was based on collaborative user contribution (experts exclusively on the latter) for reference content published and available freely under copyleft license. Long gone are those days of Encyclopædia Britannica infomercials with special offers on gold-embossed A-Z volumes requiring a sturdy new bookcase of their own. Not even the online version of the classic American public school library mainstay has been able to compete with Wikipedia and its magnitude of documentation that (despite its increasingly sophisticated system of editing and global moderation) is seldom permitted for citation in academic research due to much whinging by the establishment over its accuracy and lack of official review.
But of course much has changed since Wikipedia was launched formally in 2001, today with a tally of wikis (‘quick’ in Hawaiian or ‘what I know is’ in backronym) spanning 262 languages at a grand total of 2.9 billion articles in English alone. And thanks to the brilliance of Brighton-based artist/designer Rob Matthews, his 2009 project rightly titled ‘Wikipedia‘ demonstrates its immense scale through the actual printing and binding of roughly 2,529 articles comprising the niche featured articles section. According to Matthews’ mission statement for the project, his aim is to ‘question its use as an internet resource’ by ‘reproducing [it] in a dysfunctional physical form’. This single volume (photo above) equates to 5000 pages literally standing at a fraction of around 1/1,140th of all existing (English) articles. And aside from the obvious fantastical sight of seeing a book that is so much taller lying down than when sitting upright, the dimensional challenge it poses visually whilst in print is one that truly reaches the core of what Matthews hopes to achieve through this bizarrely tangible display of the virtual web.
Sarah Badr © MMIX
See also: Great unveiling (pieces at random)