James Whale, famed director of Frankenstein, is the subject of Bill Condon’s fictionalized 1998 film, Gods and Monsters. Whale, at the end his life, has suffered a stroke, and now finds his memories of the past “flood[ing] all over,” with randomly sparking flashbacks like a short-circuiting appliance.
Jimmy Wales, meanwhile, is one of the co-creators (with Larry Sanger) of a more contemporary monster: the collaborative on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia, a five year old patchwork assemblage which, by borrowing bits and pieces from untold numbers of contributors, has come to assume a life of its own. At its best, Wikipedia represents a sort of Borgesian ideal: a figurative “aleph,” the tiny iridescent sphere which contains within itself all worldly knowledge:
The Aleph was probably two or three centimeters in diameter, but universal space was contained within it, with no diminution in size. Each thing (the glass surface of a mirror, let us say) was infinite things, because I could clearly see it from every point in the cosmos. I saw the populous sea, saw dawn and dusk, saw the multitudes of the Americas, saw a silvery spiderweb at the center of a black pyramid, saw a broken labyrinth (it was London), saw endless eyes, all very close, studying themselves in me as though in a mirror, saw all the mirrors on the planet (and none of them reflecting me), saw in a rear courtyard on Calle Soler the same tiles I'd seen twenty years before in the entryway of a house on Fray Bentos, saw clusters of grapes, snow, tobacco, veins of metal, water vapor, saw convex equatorial deserts and their every grain of sand....
At its worst, though, the on-line encyclopedia can be perhaps better compared to the fictional James Whale’s late-life dementia: a random aggregate of memories and images, of otherwise unrelated facts and details coming together to form a monstrous new life.
Like Frankenstein’s monster, moreover, Wikipedia is regarded with viewed with dismay and even, occasionally, horror by the communities of humans which it encounters. In academia, for instance, Wikipedia has often been criticized for its inaccuracies, its biases, its structural privileging of trivia over systematic analysis, its anonymity, and its inherent mutability.