WikiBinge (Noun | /ˌwiːkiˈbinj/): Compulsive urge to read connected Wikipedia pages for a long amount of time.
WikiBinge is a tool for creating interesting paths between two subjects chronicled on Wikipedia. WikiBinge generates the story of how flimsily Alpha is connected to Omega and compels you to follow that rich, linear narration through unexpected discoveries and findings.
But what does “interesting paths” mean? Those familiar with the theory of six degree of separation won’t be surprised to discover that it’s possible to connect most Wikipedia articles following just a few links. However almost every shortest path is ridden with banality, passing through huge hyperconnected articles like “United States of America” or “World War II”.
WikiBinge instead tends to generate paths that require dozens of links to reach the destination. What matters is the journey, not the destination. Embracing this spirit, WikiBinge selects the smaller, less represented articles on Wikipedia during this journey. In a WikiBinge path the underdogs are the kings.
What WikiBinge shows during this journey mirrors the distribution of content on Wikipedia. It’s quite common for a WikiBinge path to go through unknown actors, sportsmen or remote places. This is consistent with the findings of previous studies on the distribution of topics in Wikipedia, like [Kittur, A., Suh, B., Chi, E. (2009). What’s in Wikipedia?], which places at 59% the amount of content about “Culture and the arts”, “People and self”, “Geography and places” on Wikipedia.
Also, editors of the English version of Wikipedia (which recently passed the 5 million article mark) tend to have an English Bias, a Western Bias, and they tend to be highly educated and computer savvy. This is all reflected in the results of WikiBinge, as you will promptly find by navigating through a streak of 15 articles about lesser known comic characters.
That everything is connected with everything is now common sense. But it’s how things are connected that keeps surprising me over and over, even as a longstanding fan of James Burke’s Connections.
WikiBinge is the product of a society with a problem of information overload. It reminds us how compulsive consumption of information is deeply ingrained in our way of thinking and how fiddling with snippets of information for its own sake is like trying to quench an infinite thirst.
This is perhaps why WikiBinge is, like “The Road Not Taken”, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It fools us into thinking about the beautiful results of choosing the path less traveled, but its self-deception is revealed too late, when we’re sinking in an ocean of information. And sinking in this sea is sweet to me…