Moral Economy Of Wikipedia
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Moral Economy Of Wikipedia






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  • Wikipedians, like the 18th century crowd, do not have an “advanced” political consciousness, they do have shared values, values are both basis for bottom-up self governance (direct action) and top-down regulation
  • Point out: title, infobox, warning tag, bold terms in lead
  • Point Out: Multiple Warning Tags (warning of disputes, possible sanctions, and media organization involvement, massive archive of discussions, navigation bookmarks provided for often needed discussions)
  • Note the peak early on when article is being created, point out that you will only be discussing early history of article (winter/spring 2009), early history still matters because many people view article during this time (Wikipedia as news) and because some compromises reached here prove fairly durable
  • Explain the history of WP:ARBPIA, Explain that the talk page warns of Note that the talk page warns of increased scrutiny and active editors were warned on their talk pages,
  • Note that this comes up in other articles, in your
  • Note that Nableezy is most active editor on this article and active on many articles related to Israel Palestine, as well as other issues, show how this shifts debate from transcendent truth (potentially endless) to reliable sources (concrete and available
  • Note that challenges to
  • Note that these charts show continued influence of “real world” institutional power as well as how language boundaries affect wikipedia

Moral Economy Of Wikipedia Presentation Transcript

  • 1. Negotiating the Neutral Point of View
    Politics and the Moral Economy of Wikipedia
  • 2. Moral Economy
    E.P. Thompson’s term to describe how 18th century “crowd” regulated grain prices
    Thompson “an outrage to these [communal] moral assumptions, quite as much as actual deprivation, was the usual occasion for direct action.”
    Not at all clear Thompson would appreciate my appropriation
    Useful to describe consciousness of Wikipedians
  • 3. The Gaza War Article
  • 4. The Talk Page
  • 5. Timeline of Updates
    Generated with SérgioNunes Wiki Changes tool:
  • 6. Controversial, High Traffic Article as Difficult Site for Shared Values
    Rapid rate of change makes it difficult for editors to understand what is going on
    Article grows from one sentence to 8 pages in 24 hours, to 30 pages by Jan 9
    Editors complain about difficult to navigate talk pages, over zealous archive bots
    Shifting editor community
    Digg and other media attention
    “Single Purpose” editors
    Seen as harmful to Neutrality
    Paranoia about outside organization
  • 7. Shared Values from Above or Below?
    Wikipedia Admins are particularly concerned with “keeping the peace” on articles involving Israel-Palestine conflict
    Editors show awareness of increased scrutiny
    Admins police the boundaries of the editing community
    2 of 10 most active editors banned from topic area
    One user creates account, posts to talk page, is blocked indefinitely from Wikipedia in less than an hour
    However, most editing takes place without immediate intervention by Admins
  • 8. Wikipedia Values Process of Neutrality
    Reagle points out ways “Neutral” can be difficult to define, suggests editors treat neutrality not, “so much as an end result, but as a process”
    Neutrality is constantly re-negotiated
    Three guiding principles
    NPOV (Neutral Point of View)
    WP:V (Verifiability not truth)
    WP:OR (No original research)
    Appeals to these principles were common among editors of Gaza War article
  • 9. Civilian Casualties Debate
    In the case of Gaza, who is a civilian?
    Debate over this point starts early, is often quite fierce
    Attempts by editors to define this for themselves seem irreconcilable
    One suggests Hamas’ decentralized nature blurs the line between civilian and military casualties
    Another argues all Gazans are “victims of aggression”
    Neither has much success, one banned, one quits
  • 10. Process of Neutrality Opens Space for Shared Values
    Editor Nableezy : “I completely agree with you, but for the purposes of this article, unless we can find a reliable source, and probably people would want multiple sources, that make this point, there is not really any way of doing this. But as a philosophical discussion, I do agree that in an occupying force killing somebody, regardless of the situation, would best be described as killing a victim of occupation.”
    Shifts discussion from irreconcilable and endless discussion of “truth” to concrete, resolvable question of “sources”
  • 11. Compromise Solution for Civilian Casualty Debate
    As of Jan 12, 2009 Infobox begins citing both IDF and Palestinian Ministry of Health (MoH) figures
    Later MoH figure replaced by those from NGO Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR)
    PCHR methodologies challenged repeatedly, but source holds (so far)
    Questions about methodology added to extensive Casualties section
  • 12. Limitations of Neutrality Process: The Problem of Reliable Sources
  • 13. Limitations of Neutrality Process: The Problem of Reliable Sources
  • 14. Additional Elements Influencing Neutrality Process
    Structural/Formal features of Wikipedia limit WP:V based compromise process
    Some symbols are scarce
    Article titles
    Infobox space
    Interwiki link
    In some cases Google and other search engines were employed to attempt to establish a consensus among sources (especially for scarce symbols)
  • 15. Advice for Engaging Critically on Wikipedia
    Sustained engagement is a must
    Wikipedia wide structures will influence particular content in complex ways
    Process of Neutrality means that inserting information to "balance" an article will be seen as more in line with Wikipedia values than re-framing controversial issues. This both enables and limits Wikipedia's possible "critical" role