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Marking territory: Exerting Control over the Shape of Scientific Knowledge in Wikipedia


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Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Cleveland, OH. November 2, 2011 during the Panel on Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

Presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) in Cleveland, OH. November 2, 2011 during the Panel on Using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

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  • 1. MARKING TERRITORY:Exerting Control over the Shape of Scientif c iKnowledge in WikipediaStephanie Gokhman1 []Jonathan T. Morgan2 []Mark Zachry2 []Behzod Sirjani2 []1. Cornell University, Department of Communication2. University of Washington, Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering
  • 2. MotivationLanguage-based analysis of conf ict, authority and interpersonal alignment lScientif c knowledge-sharing, commons in science and public perceptions of iscience What is the balance between the conversation about sciencecommunication (the work that is of value to f t into the encyclopedia) and i engagement?How do agenda-driven groups (WikiProjects) interact with each other and with outsiders, and how does this interaction shape public scientif c i knowledge on Wikipedia?
  • 3. What are WikiProjects?A WikiProject is a group of editors that want to work together as a team toimprove Wikipedia. These groups often focus on a specif c topic area (for iexample, womens history) or a specif c kind of task (for example, checking inewly created pages). Examples of WikiProjects in science Molecular & Cellular Biology Physics Geology Volcanoes Chemistry Chemistry templates Elements Human Genetic History Time History of Science
  • 4. How prevalent are WikiProjects?3.7 mil Wikipedia articles, 93% claimed by at least 1 WikiProject35,000 Total Currently Active Editors (5+ edits/month)49,000 members associate with at least 1 Wikiproject1,800 Wikiprojects Total WikiProjects* As of 11/1/11, Wikimedia Foundation
  • 5. New Science Production & CommunicationParadigms "The journal RNA Biology, in collaboration with Rfam, has pioneered a new model of scientif c publication where scientists are required to write a Wikipedia i article to go alongside their manuscript paper describing new families of non- coding RNAs. At the same time, the Wikipedia article will also be under a full peer review process." (Ning) "Type any scientif c term into any search engine and it is likely that a Wikipedia i article will be the f rst hit. Ten years ago, it would have been inconceivable that a i free collaborative website, written and maintained by volunteers, would dominate the global provision of knowledge. But Wikipedia is now the f rst port of call for i people seeking information on subjects that include scientif c topics. Like it or not, i other scientists and the public are using it to get an overview of your specialist area.” (Bateman & Logan)
  • 6. Conf ict/Coordination on Wikipedia & lGenrif cation iBender & Morgan: • Authority and Alignment in Wikipedia Discussions (AAWD) • sociolinguistics • social acts • user types
  • 7. MethodsAnalysis of WikiProjects to demonstrate a variety of coordination and organizationpractices in the collaborative creation process. Our research exposes relationships ofeditors to both other editors and articles in order to better def ne these underlying social iprocesses in scientif c knowledge creation. iIntersection of two or more scientif c WikiProjects by analyzing interactions among iWikiProject participants on pages claimed by multiple WikiProjectsCoded all scientif c articles marked as "controversial" or needing "Request for Comment" ior "Request for Mediation" in the last 12 monthsQualitative coding of authority claims and alignment moves: negotiation credentials conf ict l experiential relationship-building forum (policy) coordination external (citation) social expectations
  • 8. Themes:Not really "exerting control" at all! • The pattern that emerged was not so much that Wikiprojects were involved in territorial disputes with one another, but that the projects and their members guided and guarded scientif c content from i outsiders and agenda-driven individuals • Previous research (Morgan et al. 2010) has shown similar patterns of dispute between veteran Wikipedians and peripheral participants on non-scientif c articles: e.g. Jyllands-Posten Muhammad Cartoon i Controversy • Structure of conversation: delineated lists of grievances and negotiated conclusions vs. unstructured work So... When does the WikiProject come into discussion?
  • 9. Themes: Cultural EmbeddednessClash of inner and external Wikipedia policies and norms for the presentation of science• Hierarchies within and external to Wikipedia and power dynamics: less about WikiProject more about personal expertiseWikipedians (especially Wikiproject participants):• attempt to focus on presenting knowledge in an informative, encyclopedic manner• focus on presenting the current scientif c consensus, often involving signif cant literature i i review• focus on making the presentation of scientif c information conform to local policies (e.g. i reliable sources, neutral point of view)Agenda-driven users (some Wikiproject participants, many peripheral participants)• may attempt to strategically misrepresent the scientif c consensus, or present a lack of i consensus• insist on a balanced (as opposed to neutral, in the encylopedic sense) presentation of scientif c content, that includes equal weight given to different sides of the issue i
  • 10. Themes: Cultural EmbeddednessAttempt to focus on presenting knowledge in an informative, encyclopedicmanner"If the article is to be a legitimate encyclopedic entry on a medical topic, then theview purported ought to be a credible (expert) one, meaning articles like this oneare fated to look one sided because the expert community is as near aconcensus as a scientif c community can reasonably be expected to be." (from i"Vaccine Controversy")"It would be dishonest and non-neutral to pretend that there are two equally valid"sides" with competing facts. You know, "some people say the Earth isround(ish), while others counter that it is f at" doesnt exactly have that lencyclopedic ring to it" ~ MastCell (Wikiproject Medicine). From "VaccineControversy"
  • 11. Themes: Cultural EmbeddednessFocus on making the presentation of scientif c information conform to local ipolicies (e.g. reliable sources, neutral point of view)"...un-controversial facts should be stated as such. Adding un-needed qualifyingphrases is not only poor prose, but can lead the reader to make un-warrantedconclusions (such as the fact is controversial when it is not)." ~ Yobol"...I dont think that is the case here, viz. "Studies have shown that the assumptionis fundamentally f awed", in fact, both supports and reinforces the general lconsensus without sounding biased. Contrast with "The idea has several f aws", lwhich frankly comes off as "The idea is f at out false". That, in my opinion, is a classic lexample of both poor prose *and* bad taste." ~ Sebastian Garth"The current statement is neutral. There is no controversy in the medicalcommunity about this, and you have yet to present any evidence that there is.Continuing to insist on a wording that artif cially qualif es a straight-forward i istatement that is supported by the WP:RS is a violation of NPOV." ~ Yobol
  • 12. Themes: Cultural EmbeddednessFocus on presenting the current scientif c consensus, often involving signif cant literature review i i"Do you have any references that describe the two theories with equal weight or that [Multi-Regionalist Hypothesis of Human Evolution] has surpassed Out of Africa? I have seen a fewpapers (DNA) suggesting that f ndings may indicate this - however have not seen an overall shift in iviews to this affect as the f ndings seem to be inconclusive. i Human evolution: an illustrated introduction 2005 "the out of Africa is still the most strongly• favored, with little or no suppor for the MRE" Headhood, elements, specif cation and contrastivity: phonological papers.. 2008 -The currently i• dominant view of evolution assumes that modern humans evolved in Africa appox 200,000- 100,000. A new history of anthropology 2009 - "The multiregional model has also been discredited...."• Asian Paleoanthropology: From Africa to China and Beyond...2010 - "Although the "Out of Africa• I" model is widely accepted ....." Out of Chaos: Evolution from the Big Bang to Human Intellect 2011 - The more likely and• generally accepted out of Africa model indicates modern human ...]~ Moxy (from "Human Evolution")
  • 13. Themes: Public KnowledgeVaccine Controversy: presentation of pseudo-scientif c concept of "vaccine ioverload" o RFC believe this idea is f awed/biased l o wikipedias rules of neutral point of view, reliable voices, scientif c validity, i credibility w/ explicit mentions of wikiproject guidelines o dispute over wording:  "The idea of vaccine overload is f awed for several reasons...." (f nal l i wording)  Other proposed wordings  "The idea has several f aws." l  "Evidence has shown that this assumption is fundamentally f awed." l  "No scientif c evidence supports the idea, and it is f awed for several i l reasons."  "The suggestion has caused many parents to delay or avoid immunizing their children. Yet no scientif c evidence supports this i claim, and several f aws in the idea have been exposed." l o "Not what wikipedia should be talking about, what the world IS talking about"
  • 14. Wikiprojects roleWikiproject guidelines used as mechanisms to increase the quality andstandardize the presentation of scientif c content i"Good citations would be welcome. Please seeWikipedia:WikiProject Medicine/Reliable sources for advice about what sort ofsources to use, and Wikipedia:Manual of Style (medicine-related articles) #Citingmedical sources for more advice about good citations. Brief y, the best sources are lsystematic reviews in reputable medical journals, and widely recognized standardtextbooks written by experts in a f eld. The source you relied on heavily, namely iHalvorsens new book (ISBN 9781903933923) doesnt qualify as one of these high-quality sources." ~ Eubulides (from "Vaccine controversy")
  • 15. Wikiprojects roleWikiprojects as mechanisms for mediating disputes of scientif c content, ipossible sources of expertise"The result of f ling an RfC in a situation [where] the problem is the use of primary isources or some mistrust in their reliability... is that the problem escalates into alarger-scale f ght with clearly def ned sides. ...If you had, say, spent f fteen minutes i i iwith google to f nd the sources you wanted... or... alerted members of a related iwikiproject, the results would have been more productive." ~ siafu (from "NasaAstrobiology Institute")
  • 16. Discussion•Preliminary - Discovery of dimensions of interaction of groups in scientif c online spaces: ichose controversial spaces so we could f nd higher stakes examples of group imaintenance and negotiation•Comparison of authority scheme: Are there differences in the way that politicalcontroversial articles play out versus scientif c controversy? Are they expressing authority iin different ways?•Generalizable patterns of interaction in open scientif c spaces and how these iinteractions shape the face of public scientif c knowledge on Wikipedia i•Models of developing messages for public understanding of science in openencyclopedic work: What does the scientif c community view as valuable to the general ipublic and how are these messages articulated? Who are the publics for which content isdirected toward?•Power dynamics: members of Wikiproject versus members of a greater scientif c icommunity: is there a king of the mountain?•(Not priority) Behavior of interactions are opposing to stereotypes of dominant scientif c iinteraction: humor/sarcasm
  • 17. ConclusionBridging themes between all of these articles together, we hope toprovide a robust view of the ecology of scientific Wikiprojects and howthey impact the presentation of all science on Wikipedia.This research offers new insight into the shifting paradigm of scientificknowledge creation through agenda-driven communities in open spacesand provides better understanding of the social features that are integralto public engagement and understanding in science.
  • 18. AcknowledgementsShawn Walker,PhD Candidate, UW iSchool for contributing to this data.The Wikimedia FoundationUniversity of Washington