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Wikipedia becomes authoritative source on film profanity

In addition to its wide recognition as a resource on current events like the recent London bombings, Wikipedia received press coverage for something ordinary encyclopedias would never carry, a catalog of profane language in films.

What the...?

Although Wikipedia's List of films ordered by uses of the word "fuck" has been around since last December, the world's media has picked up on it this week, presenting it as a new survey 'carried out' by Wikipedians. In the UK, tabloid newspaper The Mirror even quoted a 'Wikipedia spokesperson' discussing the list [1].

It was duly reported that Nil By Mouth was the most foul-mouthed film on record, notching up some 470 fucks in 128 minutes. The Mirror quoted a Wikipedian as saying 'Nil by Mouth is a classic film but it's almost non-stop swearing'. The article has had a variable history, at one point being nominated for deletion but surviving.

Quite what prompted its sudden appearance in newspapers from London to Hindustan [2] is not clear. Perhaps it has something to do with the launch of The Aristocrats, a documentary being billed as 'The most foul-mouthed movie ever'.

However, since the publication of a rash of stories mentioning the link, the list has been updated, with Nil By Mouth apparently having been usurped by The Devil's Rejects, a horror film described as 'depraved, sick and brutal' by the Internet Movie Database. It clocks up some 560 instances of the word 'Fuck', achieving a rate almost 30% greater than Nil By Mouth.

Manufacturing the sausage of the news

An article published in the Daily Times of Pakistan has this week looked at the phenomenon of mass participation media such as Wikipedia and Wikinews, and how it is affecting traditional media [3]. Following the 7 July 2005 London bombings, Wikipedia's article on the events 'quickly became a useful resource', according to the Times. Noting that the article was edited over 5000 times during its first two weeks, the newspaper looked through the page history and said it was 'like watching the sausage of news being made by a community, edited and massaged into a historical record'.

Meanwhile, the American Journalism Review considered the possible applications of wiki technology to mainstream news in the light of the LA Times 'wikitorial' fiasco (see related story) [4]. The AJR thought that wikis could yet find a place in the mainstream media, although probably not in the form of opinion pieces on controversial topics. Instead, news sources might encourage reports from eyewitnesses via wikis, or use wikis as foci for collaborations in investigative journalism.

Nora Paul of the Institute for New Media Studies at the University of Minnesota was quoted as saying that a growing groups of news consumers were familiar with and wanted to make use of wiki technology, and that the time would come when 'news organizations have to adopt an attitude of, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em'.

Negotiating article content

Steven Zenith has this week published a blog entry describing how editors with opposing views and different backgrounds can work together to hone article content so that it is acceptable to everyone [5]. Writing on, he described his efforts to improve British Monarchy in concert with Lord Emsworth who added most of the content.

Characterising Emsworth's understanding of the subject as 'well-intentioned but naive', Zenith said he had edited the article advocating 'the removal of opinion and common perceptions, and the simple presentation of the facts as befits an encyclopedia'. However, he acknowledged that his idea of how the article should look was influenced by his views as an antiroyalist.

An understanding between Zenith and Emsworth was apparently disturbed by 'the self-righteous indignation of a UK student who embodies a completely different view of the matter'. Zenith acknowledges that none of the three protagonists are experts on the subject, but believes that he is the 'more knowledgeable of the facts'. However, he concludes by saying that 'freedom of speech is not a balanced thing. There is no requirement that the playing field be leveled. The ignorant...have as much right to be heard as the wise.'

Also this week: Editor's noteFeaturesProfanityVfDT.R.O.L.L.

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I appreciate that my Blog entry BlogHER: Favor the Wise at Always On was referenced in this Signpost - but allow me to point out that you have misrepresented the posting and you also failed to reference the blog entry directly.

--Steven Zenith 18:46, August 13, 2005 (UTC)

Could I ask you to clarify in what way you feel you've been misrepresented? I would be very happy to correct any errors. Worldtraveller 13:07, 14 August 2005 (UTC)[reply]


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