214: The Problem with Wikipedia
|The Problem with Wikipedia|
Title text: 'Taft in a wet t-shirt contest' is the key image here.
This comic illustrates the "problems" of information abundance coupled with a dense web of hypertext links. Through most of human history, written media has been both slow and linear. Hypertext allows a new type of information consumption, through small chunks of information linked together in a web of related concepts, and by being digital, each new chunk can be retrieved quickly and effortlessly. Wikipedia applies this principle very strongly, and because it covers so many topics, it is common for a reader to skim an article about a topic they need or want to know about, and end up following a series of links out of curiosity. Since each new page also has several links, the overall navigation pattern resembles a tree that branches out, "exploding" in size with each new level of link-clicking, thus resulting in many wasted hours (three in this case) of reading stuff unrelated to the original goal, and lots of open browser tabs holding a wide variety of articles, which are seemingly unrelated, but have common "ancestors".
All of the articles and the depicted links between them existed when the comic was published, with the exception of "Fatal hilarity" not being linked from Batman. ("Structural collapse" was piped to Structural failure. Fatal hilarity has since been renamed to Death from laughter.) Whether each of these articles actually could, or presently can, be reached from Tacoma Narrows Bridge is unknown, and would make good challenges in the Wikipedia game.
The title text refers to two of the articles that were supposedly reached at the bottom. William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the U.S., in office from 1909 to 1913, who was notorious for being so overweight that he became stuck in the White House bathtub. A wet T-shirt contest "is an exhibitionistic competition typically featuring young women contestants at a nightclub, bar, or resort." Clearly the combination of these two would be rather bizarre.
- The Problem With Wikipedia:
- Tacoma Narrows Bridge
- [Lines Lead to] Suspension Bridge [and] Structural collapse
- Three hours of fascinated clicking later
- William Howard Taft
- 24-Hour Analog Dial
- Lesbianism in Erotica
- Batman [leads to] Fatal Hilarity
- Taylor Hanson
- Cotton [leads to] T-Shirt [leads to] Wet T-Shirt Contest
- This comic is very similar to 609: Tab Explosion, which refers to a similar effect caused by another reference site, TVTropes.
- See also the title text of 903: Extended Mind.