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Wikipedia's Role as a Gatekeeper

The next ASMC14 speaker is Heather Ford, who shifts our focus to Wikipedia. In its early days, the site was seen as an underdog challenging existing publishing models – this includes news publishers, and Wikipedia was seen as a challenger to the conventional gatekeepers. It was also shown that the quality of its content was not necessarily any worse than that of traditional encyclopaedias, even though it had been collaboratively compiled. Nonetheless, a persistent view of its inaccuracy due to this collaborative model remains.

Wikipedia itself offers a range of self-definitions, which inter alia point out that Wikipedia is not a social network (or even a dating service), so personal profiles should be kept short; not a soap box from which to promote personal views or original research. Wikipedia also defines reliable sources which should be used as evidence for its articles, and in doing so for the most part explicitly rules out self-published media (blogs, etc.) as unreliable.

When Wikipedians Go Wrong

The final day at AoIR 2013 starts for me with a panel on conflict, controversy and aggression in online spaces in which Theresa Sauter and I also have a paper - but the first presenter is Heather Ford, whose focus is on Wikipedia. She has been involved with Wikipedia for some time, and has seen a substantial level of conflict (leading to article deletions and user bannings) during that time. Her paper here focusses on the specific case of a Wikipedian being stalked and banned.

Being a Wikipedian means being part of a peer-production community, which Benkler and Nissenbaum have claimed fosters virtue. But more recent research has exposed some of the darker sides of Wikipedia - as experienced especially to newcomers to the community. Entering the now-mature project at a late stage is difficult, and many contributions from newbie users are reverted by established participants; this has been seen as contribution to Wikipedia's decline and the slow-down of new user sign-ups.

The Politics of Editing Wikipedia

The final speaker in this session at ECPR 2011 is Thomas Roessing, who focusses on Wikipedia. His interest is in the politics of Wikipedia’s community of participants, which engages both at a meta level (on Wikipedia as such) and the discussion level (discussing the content of individual articles). Those two levels also interact, of course, and also influence the level of the articles themselves. Researchers can examine these processes by studying the records of online discussion for each article, which Wikipedia also keeps.

Prevalent Community Values on Wikipedia

The next speaker at AoIR 2010 is Jonathan Morgan, who shifts our focus to Wikipedia. His interest is in how communal values are expressed by participants on the site – for example around specific controversies on the site. His project examined the debates around the Jyllands Posten / Muhammad cartoons controversy; here, the editors who created the Wikipedia entry covering this issue decided to include the offending cartoon in the entry at first, which generated substantial debate.

The site’s professed aim is to empower and engage people around the world, and founder Jimmy Wales has echoed these sentiments in his own statements. Surveys of Wikipedians in the English-language Wikipedia also refer to altruism, reciprocity, sense of community, as well as fun and a sense of mission.

Adders, Synthesisers - What Motivates Wikipedia Participants?

The final speaker in this session at AoIR 2009 is Zack Hayat, whose interest is in active participation on Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a space for collaborative content creation as well as for interpersonal interaction (for example through its community portals - or whatever they are positioned as in the various international Wikipedia versions - and discussion pages). There has been exponential growth in Wikipedia participants over the past years, but the number of regular editors has remained relative stable; growth has been mainly in less active editors. Some 60% of Wikipedia has been created by 5% of its users, as Jimmy Wales has said.

Perceptions of Wikipedia's Credibility

The next presenter at AoIR 2009 is Ericka Menchen-Trevino, whose interest is in the assessment of the credibility of online information, here especially for Wikipedia content, of course. Wikipedia is now a major source of information, and is used by many users especially also for health information, which is particularly problematic if users do not exercise sufficient caution in using the information provided here.

Ericka examined this by surveying the attitudes of college students towards Wikipedia's credibility; they were asked about specific information-seeking skills, and their actions in information seeking tests were also examined using screen capture and audio/video recording (using hypothetical scenarios).

National Differences in Wikipedia's Coverage

The next speakers at AoIR 2009 are Susan Herring and Ewa Callahan. Susan starts by highlighting Wikipedia's well-known Neutral Point of View (NPOV) policy, but there has been little research into whether its content is truly fair and balanced - even less so across the many different languages across which Wikipedia operates. There is a sense that different versions emphasise 'local heroes', but this too has not been tested.

So, this paper examines the English and Polish Wikipedias. The Polish version is different from the English in that it is specific to one country only, and that there is a very specific cultural background of the language community (and it is also the fourth largest Wikipedia); the English version is the oldest and largest, and is authored by English speakers around the world (but with focus especially on US and UK users, persumably). The paper examined the entries for 15 famous Poles and 15 famous Americans across a variety of different fields of achievement from a structural as well as thematic point of view.

How Wikipedia Policies Are Institutionalised

The final AoIR 2009 session for the day is on Wikipedia (hmm, so few papers on Wikipedia at this conference - why? just because Twitter is the Next Big Thing now?). We begin with Lindsay Fullerton, who notes the trends in Wikipedia which have been able to be observed over the past few years. In particular, edits of Wikipedia policy texts have substantially increased over time, to the point where there is now more work on Wikipedia policy edits than on actual articles; additionally, of course, there has been a massive growth of Wikipedia editors, levelling off now and standing at around 180,000.

Looking under the Hood of Wikipedia

After some drama getting here (note to self: Qantas may be in trouble at the moment, but avoid Scandinavian Airlines like the plague), I'm now in Copenhagen, and we're about to start the programme proper of the ninth annual Association of Internet Researchers conference. Although the presentation by Dr. Hala-Seuss which runs in a parallel session was very tempting, I'm starting the day in a session on wikis. Timme Bisgaard Munk is the first presenter, presenting on his study of the Danish Wikipedia.


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