Oxford article comments
Pynchon Wiki Analyzed
A couple of scholars at Oxford's Internet Institute and e-Research Centre have published an interesting paper on us and this project: Literary Sleuths Online: e-Research Collaboration on the Pynchon Wiki.
The present page is set aside for comments and corrections to this article (in other words, a wiki on a paper on a wiki).
Commentary by Bleakhaus
My personal thanks to Ralph Schroeder and Matthijs den Besten for their thoughtful and rigorous analysis of Pynchon Wiki and its greater significance in the Wild West of collaborative research.
The following commentary follows a far looser standard than I'd use when contributing to or editing other parts of the Pynchonwiki. I do this to experiment with a more personal form of commentary and see if it produces anything useful. "Let the reader decide, let the reader beware." I use the pagination of the paper at SSRN.
It's curious that Internet researchers would use this term to describe a literary wiki. Sure, it ain't a particle accelerator, but still the highest-tech solution yet applied to literary collaboration or research.
"The Pynchon Wiki can thus be seen as an example of humanities e-research, though it could equally be seen as an amateur or hobbyist effort or as a community of fans of the author."
It would be interesting to see what kind of wiki annotation emerged if written by an army of an author's enemies, rather than fans like us here. Think of a Republican commentary wiki on Bill Clinton's autobiography, or a Democrat critique of Reagan's.
"whether speed and openness to all contributors have come at the cost of quality."
The entries on Pynchonwiki vary in quality. Most are useful, but there are still too many that are overly long, irrelevant, or completely unfounded theory. After laying the groundwork for the page-by-page section I battled early on with a handful contributors who were taking the commentary away from what we'd find in Weisenberger, for instance with personal commentary, jokes, digressions and comparisons (cf.) which veered too far away from the text at hand. These contributors were and are always free to create a separate area of Pynchonwiki for adding such content, (say, "Bleakhaus's suggested interpretations and comparisons for each page of Against the Day"), but none has yet done so. I believe some of these guys felt slighted by my edits but I believed then and now that the already enormous wiki would have become much longer and less useful if I and others had not steered it into its current form.
"being able to recognize and understand his sources enhances the appreciation of his fiction."
I've come to believe that Pynchon is one of the handful of authors who benefit from such extensive annotation. Pynchonwiki was a success because it was the right tool for the right book at the right time. I have since created a similar site, , which is essentially Pynchonwiki for all other books, but after some months of tinkering I find that few other books benefit from the wiki annotation treatment, even some books with similarly enormous amounts of references (such as Foucault's Pendulum by Eco, in which the abundance of information is used as a spice and digging up each reference does not necessarily illuminate anything).
"the Wiki turning into a junkyard full of people's half-baked opinions and Kinbote-esque commentary"
Thankfully this did not occur once the general ground rules were established early on, not so much by fiat or even agreement as much as the example of existing entries. Although I'm proud of what we accomplished, part of me wishes that parts of the wiki had gotten a bit more wild and wooly :)
"Finally, the fact that the pages ‘Against the Day Title’ and ‘The Sexual Angle’ receive more edits than ‘Thomas Pynchon’ is a sign that the contributors to ‘Against the Day’ are less concerned with the author himself but are more interested in the book itself."
Not necessarily true. The Thomas Pynchon entry as been edited only a little because it was copied whole from Wikipedia and there's not much to add.