Siva Vaidhyanathan’s writing on open source culture aids us in the understanding of the longevity of open source thinking, combatting the proprietary model that emerged in the 20th century. Open source usually refers to the sharing of blueprints, recipes, and information that includes, but is not limited to software and manufacturing.

Open source does not encourage monopoly, but rather peer to peer interaction that involves multiple parties to work together to build on a common project, so long as they carry the same license (an official permission). It encourages growth, development and accentuates the benefits of working together. Closed source, on the other hand, rejects third-party interaction and maintains a monopoly to not lose revenue from sharing information. To those that adopt a proprietary ideology, innovation is fuelled by commercial gains (Vaidhyanathan, Open Source, 2005). While this may be true to a certain extent, it is not applicable to those who innovate solely for artistic or non-commercial purposes, or even gestures for themselves or others.

This does not mean that open source should be an entirely ‘selfless’ model, as people can remodify, improve and develop based on the information provided freely and commercialise it (Vaidhyanathan, Open Source, 2005). It is however not done at the expense of the provider of the source, which is why open source works. Wikipedia is an open source online encyclopaedia which allows anyone to edit. Wikipedia Art, a collaborative project by Nathaniel Stern and Scott Kildall, was started as a conventional Wikipedia page and intended for art editors to modify the page however they liked, so long as they adhered to the strict guidelines and rule of Wikipedia. However, it was shrouded in controversy and was officially removed only 15 hours into the project.

Wikipedia Art was a perfect example of a non-commercial interaction shut down by Wikipedia in order to protect the integrity of it as an encyclopaedia. Some argued that Wikipedia Art should be removed as it should not be allowed to reference itself, as this created a paradox. Wikipedia further ‘fenced off’ (Vaidhyanathan, Open Source, 2005) the artists by threatening to take legal action against them for using ‘Wikipedia’ as their domain name, according to It was out of character for an open source owner to pull copyright claims on a third-party that did not exploit their domain for monetary gains. Wikipedia’s reaction to Wikipedia Art sparked debate with the online community, and at the same time unintentionally garnered traction for the project. For Wikipedia Art, this may well be a successful attempt at creating art, as they have achieved an unintended outcome that aligned with their goals.

Even though Wikipedia Art has been removed from the official Wikipedia page, it continues to be ‘resurrected’ through different users and engaging in a discussion of it. While this can be considered a successful project, it also unintentionally highlighted the flaws of Wikipedia as an open source. In retrospect, I felt that the project could have been approached in a different manner which would have avoided the controversy that it did not mean to spark.



Vaidhyanathan, S. (2005). Open Source . In Open Source (p. 25).

Vaidhyanathan, S. (2005). Open Source . In Open Source (p. 27).

Wikipedia Art –