Wikipedia and Robert Miller

Okay, I have been reading Robert Miller’s Writing at the End of the World this weekend, and looking back at the title my last post, I’m intrigued.

Miller talks about picking up the pieces after an apocalypse, like 9/11 or the Oklahoma City bombings. The ruins and detritus of civilization tell much about the way we live, but they also provide a way to “shock and awe” the reader, to disgust him, to en-gross him.

By going at some level for shock value, the author can generate a visceral reaction in the reader. That reaction in some way prods the reader into re-creating a new world from the ruins of the old. This generative reading is better, Miller says, than the poststructuralist nihilism that he says has infected culture in the last two or three decades.

What does the Wikipedia’s trash tell us about our culture? What does that trash tell us has to be done? Can we read generatively the detritus of the collaborative encyclopedia, and if so, what kind of world can we build out of it?

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