Collaborative work of art

(English) This is an essay. It expresses the opinions and ideas of some Wikimedians but may not have wide support. This is not policy on Meta, but it may be a policy or guideline on other Wikimedia projects. Feel free to update this page as needed, or use the discussion page to propose major changes.

It has not been stated explicitly by the founders of Wikipedia, but it is implicit within the whole policy behind Wikipedia that Wikipedia is a collaborative work of art.

This conceptual metaphor is suggested by the whole emphasis on working together to create a free internet encyclopedia via a wiki. Examples that this is a fundamentally creative process are so obvious they are perhaps unnoticed.:

  • creating an encyclopedia
  • building an encyclopedia
  • making an encyclopedia

This approach is best explained in the works of Robert Fritz in The Path of Least Resistance and Creating. For Fritz, there is a common creative process that underlies the creations of 'works of art', whether they be painters, writers, poets, architects, designers or programmers.

In order to create something you need to know two things:

  • Current reality
  • The vision

Current reality within Wikipedia is made utterly explicit by the software. Indeed with its version control we are aware of each step on the way to our vision.

The vision of Wikipedia has been stated elsewhere, and is a powerful dream within the minds of all who work on Wikipedia.

The creative process works from the discrepancy between current reality (the state of the article/state of Wikipedia) and the vision (the ideal article/ideal encyclopedia). The creative process uses discrepancy in two ways. Firstly, the larger the discrepancy between current reality and the vision, the more germinational[unclear] energy there is to make a positive start to article or new version of Wikipedia. Secondly, the more progress that has been made, the more momentum is created, and thus the more motivation to reach the first targets for Wikipedia.

And why do we create things? Fritz argues we do this out of love. The only reason someone creates something and bring it into existence is that they love the vision enough to see it created. So Wikipedia truly is a labour of love. Which probably explains concepts like WikipediAhimsa and WikiLove.

People who are in the process of creating something have a tendency to become obsessional and goal focused. Unlike other Wiki's Wikipedia policy has been explicitly against distractions from its vision.

  • Discouraging degeneration into a talking shop: Wikipedia is not a social club!
    • Discussions of articles moved to seperate talk pages.
    • Discussions about Wikipedia moved to Meta-Wikipedia.
  • Only allowing personal essays on user pages and Meta-Wikipedia.
  • Staying on topic. Clearly stating en:What Wikipedia is not

Larry Sanger put this way:

"Our avowed purpose is to create an encyclopedia, and it is not to do a lot of other things that would detract from this purpose. For example, among the things Wikipedia isn't doing is creating a dictionary and providing a discussion forum for political issues. The reason Wikipedia exists is to create an encyclopedia."

There are other popular metaphors for the process at work within Wikipedia


  1. pragma section-numbers off

Incidentalist Manifestos





Incidentalism is not a style of art, but rather an attitude towards the practice of art. Incidentalists are artists of any style, practice or medium who apply incidentalism in their work.

Articulating The New


The artist is a worker of boundries. To articulate is to express by manipulating boundries, boundaries in sounds and shapes, boundaries in beliefs and behaviour. Whether for a page, canvas, stage or a moment of pregnant silence, it is the task of the artist to express that which has never been. It is through this articulation, this boundary work, that new ideas, new knowledge and new techniques first emerge.

WHEREAS, it is the artist who is the bringer of the new, 
SO THEREFORE incidentalism is a strategy for provoking new expressions.

Beyond Preconception


The new cannot be achieved with skill or knowledge, both of which are rooted in the past, and are artifacts of the old. You cannot find the new by way of that which you have already conceived. If the outcome of an incident can be imagined, any enlightenment has already been perceived in the imagining; only the un-planned can reveal the un-preconcieved. Incidentalism seeks to introduce uncontrollable or unpredictable factors into the incident of art.

WHEREAS incidentalism strives to express the new, 
SO THEREFORE it is not our purpose to use art as a tool to demonstrate our own skill or knowledge, but rather to use art as an apparatus to incite expressions that are beyond our own preconceptions.

Art and Residue


Art is not an object, art happens. Art happens when the actions of artists bring expressions into a state where they can be perceived. All objects that result from an incident are merely the residue of the incident, not the art itself.

WHEREAS residue incites further incidents which produce more residue, 
SO THEREFORE an incident never truly ends; in fact all incidents change the world.

On Originality


All words, colours, shapes, movements, sounds and all other forms of expressions belong to all that have perceived them or wish to express them. All expressions are extensions of previous perceptions. Even if an expression is intentionally duplicated, it will always be affected and changed by the new incident of expression. Even if an expression is purposefully unique, the artifacts of the incident and previous perceptions will always be present. While no expression can ever be exactly repeated, neither can any expression be completely new.

WHEREAS, all expressions are both original and derivative, 
SO THEREFORE any attempt to claim ideas, knowledge or techniques as property is fraud.

Freedom of Resonance


Ideas, knowledge and techniques are the fuel of progress. Limits on expression are enforced by vested interests in order to retain power. The new is a threat to the power of the status quo. Since the freedom of expressions to resonate is of critical importance, incidentalism will strive to reclaim any expression stolen from the public wealth, and give resonance to expressions suppressed by censors or otherwise excluded from public dialogue.

WHEREAS, expressions belong to all, 
SO THEREFORE all things that restrict expression are tools of oppression.



Incident: The moment when art happens.

Incidentalist: An artist who practices incidentalism.

Coincidentalists: Anybody present or involved with an incident, including the other incidentalists. Coincidentalists are not necessarily Incidentalists or share the Incidentalists motives or beliefs. Incidentalist art has no audience, only coincidentalists.

Accidentalist: An accidentalist, also called a Rubist, is one who incites incidents with powerful and insightful resonance without any intention at all to do such. The work of the Accidentalist has the greatest potency because it is entirely unpreconcieved and therefore limitless in its potential to incite new and enlightening expressions.

Conventionist: Conventionists admire convention and feel important because of their relationship with, or knowledge of conventions, and usually these conventions are widely propagated by vested interests. They like conventional ideas and convention-like activities where people gather, frequently in a convention center, to worship conventions. They concern themselves with inane categorizations and judge value based on the fraud of authenticity. To a conventionist a thing has more value because it more closely replicates or mimics another thing, or is more similar to an idea or type that is well-defined, and is supposedly more authentic or genuine. They admire the well-planned and do not want the unpreconcieved to affect them.



Incidentalist Inferiority Doctrine: One cannot try to be an Accidentalist -- one either is or isn't one, and even that is not a state of being but rather a role in a particular incident. The Incidentalists accept that their work will always be secondary to the work of the Accidentalist. The Incidentalists accept that they must be merely artists; the Incidentalists admires and tries to learn from the Rubist, but does not try to be or become a Rubist, as that would be futile and the results predictable.

Failure Is Success Doctrine: An incidentalist does not rejoice when a test is passed with ease, but rather is disappointed because clearly the test has been too easy. If a goal is accomplished too readily, then the goal is deemed to have been set too low. If a plan goes off without a hitch, then the plan has lacked ambition. The Incidentalists are always reaching beyond their grasp, as nothing within their grasp will incite the new. Any plan of action with an easily predictable outcome is not worth doing.

Manifesto as Conventionism Doctrine: By virtue of defining conventions, these Manifestos themselves contain the seeds of conventionism; they are at best a point of departure for the practicing incidentalist and not of great value. These Manifestos are intended for those who are curious about incidentalism, be they admiring conventionists or emerging incidentalists. These Manifestos are not in any way complete, conclusive or binding and are subject to change without notice.