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How Vox is like Urban Dictionary

Stashed in: @davechappelle, Urban Dictionary, Medium

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Urban Dictionary is where people who are too old or too something go to translate what kids these days are talking about. Anil Dash is twitter famous. Anil Dash says Urban Dictionary is the other Wikipedia. That is called an expert opinion.

Early descriptions of Vox in its Super Secret Phase described it as a “bit like Wikipedia articles written by journalists”. The Wikipedia analogy doesn’t feel quite right. Wikipedia aims to be the people’s canonical digital text. Urban Dictionary says there isn’t a single canon, only cultures.

Vox may think it is the people’s Wikipedia for news (it may have evolved). But I experience Vox more as a snapshot of media culture for a very specific culture of many. Vox isn’t THE cannonical source for cultural references. It’s a way to figure out what highly educated, affluent, mostly white people are talking about and why.

I recently used a link to Urban Dictionary’s page for “studdin’” in a post aimed squarely at academics. That’s how useful Urban Dictionary is. Studdin’ is a regional (I think black but maybe just southern; it gets confusing) iteration of “studying”. It is used to say that someone or some anthropomorphized thing is not presently concerned with you or your situation. As in, most of the time I am not studdin’ Vox…until I am. I do not go to Vox. It magically shows up with something I do not know or cannot recall; tells me that I need it; and, then provides me the thing it tells me that I need.

That’s a very particular kind of service, especially on the Internet where we’re consuming and producing information in very active ways. It is probably even a valuable service. I think there’s a name for it. I’ll wait for Vox to tell me what it is.

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