London-based publisher James Bridle has published every edit made to the Iraq War Wikipedia page between December 2004 and November 2009. It took 12 volumes to include all 12,000 edits made by Wikipedia users in that time. Bridle recently wrote about what he refers to as “the flatness of digital memory,” i.e. the idea that everything on the Internet is always Now. Interestingly, he cites the loss of the now-defunct website-host Geocities (closed to US residents in October of 2009), despite archiving efforts from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine. Thus, his project, which he calls a Wikipedia Historiography, attempts to give a temporality to how the Iraq War was documented on Wikipedia, which of course is aided by the fact that it’s printed in a hefty load of physical books.
Why Wikipedia? “I talked about Wikipedia because for me, Wikipedia is a useful subset of the entire internet, and as such a subset of all human culture.” However Bridle also relied on Wikipedia’s feature of chronicling the history of every page — in a sense an auto-archiving feature that doesn’t leave anything up to third party sites.
Being true to history, Bridle printed every single edit, no matter how seemingly profane. “It contains arguments over numbers, differences of opinion on relevance and political standpoints, and frequent moments when someone erases the whole thing and just writes ‘Saddam Hussein was a dickhead.'”
Bridle sums up his philosophy nicely when he writes, “Everything should have a history button.”
[Photos via Bridle’s Flickr stream]