Mining the ‘Depths of Wikipedia’ on Instagram

Do you know that there’s a Swiss political occasion devoted to opposing using PowerPoint? That some folks consider Avril Lavigne died in 2003 and was changed by a look-alike? Or that there’s a stone in a museum in Taiwan that uncannily resembles a slab of meat?

Most likely not — until, that’s, you’re one of many tons of of hundreds of people that observe @depthsofwikipedia. The Instagram account shares weird and shocking snippets from the huge, crowdsourced on-line encyclopedia, together with amusing photos (a chicken literally crossing a road) and minor moments in historical past (Mitt Romney driving several hours with his dog atop his car). Some posts are healthful — reminiscent of Hatsuyume, the Japanese phrase for one’s first dream of the yr — whereas others are usually not protected for work (say, panda pornography).

Annie Rauwerda, 22, began the account within the early days of the pandemic, when others have been baking sourdough bread and studying how you can knit. “Everybody was beginning tasks, and this was my challenge,” she mentioned.

On the time, she was a sophomore on the College of Michigan. College students are sometimes discouraged from utilizing Wikipedia as a supply in tutorial work, as a result of most of its pages may be edited by anybody and should include inaccurate data. However for Ms. Rauwerda, the location was at all times extra about leisure: spending hours clicking on one hyperlink after one other, getting misplaced in rabbit holes.

“Wikipedia is the perfect factor on the web,” Ms. Rauwerda mentioned in a telephone interview. “It’s what the web was purported to be. It has this hacker ethos of working collectively and making one thing.”

At first, solely her mates have been following the account. However it acquired a wave of consideration when Ms. Rauwerda posted in regards to the influencer Caroline Calloway, who was upset that the post featured an previous model of her Wikipedia web page that mentioned her occupation was “nothing.” Ms. Rauwerda apologized, and Ms. Calloway later boosted the account on her Instagram.

Ms. Rauwerda has since expanded @depthsofwikipedia to Twitter and TikTok. She sells merchandise (reminiscent of a espresso mug emblazoned with a picture from the Wikipedia entry for “bisexual lighting”) and has hosted a stay present in Manhattan, that includes trivia and stand-up.

Her followers typically pitch her Wikipedia pages to characteristic, however nowadays it’s arduous to seek out an entry that can impress Ms. Rauwerda. “If it’s a enjoyable indisputable fact that’s been on the Reddit house web page, I’m undoubtedly not going to repost it,” she mentioned. “For instance, there are solely 25 blimps on this planet. I’ve identified about that for a very long time, and it went round Twitter a pair days in the past. I used to be shocked. I used to be like, ‘Everybody is aware of this.’”

She is picky largely as a result of lots of her followers depend on @depthsofwikipedia for unearthing the hidden gems of the web.

“I simply like to be taught stuff, particularly these unusual pictures and issues I may by no means discover alone,” mentioned Gabe Hockett, 15, a highschool pupil in Minneapolis. He mentioned his favourite posts from the account embrace “The Most Unwanted Song” and the “Dave Matthews Band Chicago River incident.”

Jen Fox, 22, mentioned that buying and selling posts from the account together with her boyfriend is “a particular, nerdy love language.” It’s additionally been a litmus check for friendships. When Ms. Fox, a copywriter, moved to San Francisco in February, she would point out the account to new folks she met. In the event that they have been aware of it, she mentioned, “we might begin DM-ing one another and sharing our favourite posts, which felt like we have been actually solidifying a concrete friendship.” Ms. Fox even attended a @depthsofwikipedia meet-up at a neighborhood brewery. “There’s such a neighborhood behind it,” she mentioned.

It’s not new for lovers of Wikipedia to rally round their ardour for the platform. A Fb group referred to as Cool Freaks’ Wikipedia Club, based eight years in the past, has almost 50,000 members who actively commerce hyperlinks.

Ms. Rauwerda’s account “makes the web really feel smaller,” mentioned Heather Woods, an assistant professor of rhetoric and know-how at Kansas State College. “It shortcuts the rabbit-hole phenomenon by providing engaging — or typically hilariously unattractive — entry factors to web tradition.”

Zachary McCune, the model director for the Wikimedia Basis, which operates Wikipedia, mentioned that @depthsofwikipedia is an extension of the location’s participatory ethos. “It’s a spot the place Wikipedia involves life, like an after-hours tour of the perfect of Wikipedia,” Mr. McCune mentioned.

And since Wikipedia has greater than 55 million articles, having a information like Ms. Rauwerda is useful. She hopes that guests to her web page stroll away with new shared data. “I would like you to see one thing that makes you pause and go, ‘Hmm, that’s fascinating,’” Ms. Rauwerda mentioned. “One thing that makes you rethink the world just a little bit.”

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