Matt Mechtley, of Tempe, Arizona, is a fan of Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia that allows users to post and edit articles. He's also into culture jamming, a term coined by the prankster band Negativland to describe parodic defacements of billboards -- and which has come to mean any sabotage/subversion of "media," from advertisements to newspaper boxes. On January 1, he announced a thought-provoking prank that combines these two passions.
"One of my favorite quirks about [Wikipedia]," Mechtley writes on his blog, Biphenyl, "are the little  tags that users can place in an article, indicating that a dubious claim needs a reference." Mechtley decided that he'd like to slap  tags onto real-world ads, signs, even graffiti that make what he regards as dubious claims. So he printed up 250 8-by-2-inch stickers, and handed them out to friends -- who used some of them, and handed the rest out to others. He also provides an image of the sticker for downloading, at Biphenyl; and he's using the photo-sharing site Flickr to document the results, which are tagged "citationneeded" and "wikiffiti."
It's amusing to see Wikipedia's  tag on a graffiti-ed warning about "peak oil" -- the point after which the rate of global petroleum production will supposedly enter its terminal decline; it's even funnier to see a Palm Centro smartphone ad promising "a more social life" get stickered. Which gives me an idea. You know those ads for Sony's "Reader Digital Book" plastered all over the MBTA, the ones that say "Sexier than a librarian"? Somebody get me a sticker!
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