Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What Ever Happened to Wikiloot?

I’ve been critical of Wikiloot, what with its confusion of journalism with activism, the prospects for abuse, and the fact that in the end it is really just another diversion from much needed scrutiny of the poor cultural heritage policies of many source countries. There has been some continuing discussion of the project in the blogosphere, but no indication that Wikiloot remains anything other than a proposal. What has become of Wikiloot?

1 comment:

Cultural Property Observer said...

Arthur Houghton asked me to post this for him:
Peter, I'm glad that you asked the question.

There are a number of people who have looked carefully at Wikiloot, and they are all pretty clear that it is little more than a publicity gimmick with a core element that seems intended to incite vigilante action. It offers a platform for people who have no special credibility but who want to see their names published as "de-looters", and is intended to sex up the Chasing Aphrodite website with lurid suggestions of black market antiquities in US museums that Chasing Aphrodite's authors will say must be (must be!) be investigated.

It was interesting to me that one of the principals of Chasing Aphrodite, Jason Felch, normally a responsible fellow, proposed recently in a museum forum I attended that antiquities without provenance should be presumed guilty from the outset -- thus setting up the thesis that if an object in a museum collection does not appear to have a clear provenance, Chasing Aphrodite will honor the accuser, support the most baseless allegations, call for an investigation, pillory the museum. It's pretty sordid stuff, all about sex and publicity. A little mindless: "Find the looted antiquity!" To be sure, the authors of Chasing Aphrodite cannot give a clear definition of what an antiquity is. Maybe what some other country thinks it is. Maybe something else. Who knows? Who cares?

I did not seem to win Jason's applause when I compared Wikiloot's crowd-sourcing method to inviting a public with little more medical knowledge than that provided by
"Nurse Jackie" to roam our hospitals and medical facilities with the intent of finding malpractice. Spare me. Spare us.

I know Jason and his co-author Ralph Frammolino and consider them both friends. I've enjoyed their company, their bright minds, their charm and wit. I had hoped for more responsible conduct, something that would allow them to claim the high ground in the discussion of what needs to be done to discourage the destruction and looting of archaeological sites. Instead, they want Wikiloot, and Wikiloot takes them off the rails.
It's publicity gimmick, nothing more. I confess to despairing that my friends will ever live up to the professional standards that they adhered to as journalists. But I will keep trying to help them do it.

I should add that I have proposed to Jason that we have an open dialogue on his website about Wikiloot. There has been no response. Nothing. I can only attribute it to embarrassment.

Thank you,