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Collective Memory building in Wikipedia: the case of North African uprisings


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Paper presented at Wikisym 2011, 7th International Symposium on Wikis and Open Collaboration

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Authors: Michela Ferron, Paolo Massa

Since December 2010, a series of protests and uprisings have shocked North African countries such as Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, Yemen and more. In this paper, focusing mainly on the Egyptian revolution, we provide evidence of the intense edit activity occurred during these uprisings on the related Wikipedia
pages. Thousands of people provided their contribution on the content pages and discussed improvements and disagreements on the associated talk pages as the traumatic events unfolded. We
propose to interpret this phenomenon as a process of collective memory building and argue how on Wikipedia this can be studied empirically and quantitatively in real time. We explore and suggest possible directions for future research on collective memory formation of traumatic and controversial events in Wikipedia.

Collective Memory building in Wikipedia: the case of North African uprisings

  1. Collective Memory building in Wikipedia: the case of North African uprisingsMichela Ferron Paolo MassaCenter for Mind/Brain SoNet - FondazioneSciences Bruno Kessler (FBK)University of Trento, Italy Trento, Italy - phauly @ Wikipedia -
  2. TimeDecember 2010”The 21st centuryruns on fast-forward,and the only way tokeep up is to stopand figure out whatreally happened”
  3. Outline1) Idea: History2.0 and Collective Memory building2) Evidence: Egyptian Revolution on Wikipedia3) Research: Ongoing and Directions
  4. Case Study: 2011 Egyptian RevolutionPopular uprising (street demonstrations, protests)Began on Tuesday, 25 January 2011Inspired by the Tunisian revolutionPart of the Arab Spring (Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan, Syria, Libya, ...)Still continuing as of October 2011Mainly peaceful but at least 846 people killed and 6,000 injured.Goal achieved: On 11 February 2011, President Mubarak resignedSource: ”2011 Egyptian revolution” Wikipedia page (Oct 5, 2011)
  5. Need to communicate current events! ”The world must know … in English” Leave before the air finishes Revolution Will be Self-Organized, Tahrir, #May27
  6. Need to communicate! Sure, using Twitter, Facebook, social media (personal opinions)But why not write it as a fact on Wikipedia where tons of people go the get ”Reality”? (wikiality, self-fulfilling prophecy, ...)
  7. Wikipedia = thedemocratization of ”manufacturing consent”?[Dror Kamir]
  8. Who controls the past controls the future.Who controls the present controls the past. George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four
  9. History is written by the winners History was written by the winners NowIt is written in real time, by anyone Where?
  10. ”2011 Egyptian Revolution” Wikipedia page
  11. ”2011 Egyptian Revolution” Wikipedia talk page
  12. Not only English!
  13. Not only English!
  14. You need ”history” to study history ;)
  15. ”This is historiography. This is whatculture actually looks like: a process ofargument, of dissenting and accretingopinion, of gradual and not alwayscorrect codification””Everything should have a history button”James Bridle
  16. Video of ”7 July 2005 London bombings” Wikipedia page evolution
  17. Empirical questionIs it possible to study history in real time as it gets written by thousands of contributors?
  18. Collective Memory building on WikipediaCollective memory (CM): a set of ideas, images, feelings about thepast (Iwona Irwin-Zarecka, 1994), built through an active processof sense-making through time.Studied mainly in Psychology (small groups), Sociology (nations,movements, ...)Now possible to study CM quantitatively via Wikipedia. ● Wikipedia is a global memory place where discussion and article creation can be interpreted as the discursive fabrication of memory through sense-making and discussion of different points of view (Pentzold, 2009)Wikipedia encompasses the major functions of collective memory,to satisfy the needs of the communities in the present:construction/support of group identity, cohesion and continuity(Harris et al., 2008), commemoration to re-elaborate events(Zerubavel, 1995) and for emotional bonding and therapeuticpractice (Wang, 2008).
  19. WikiSweeper:Ushahidi + Wikimediato track breaking news(Sept 13th, 2011)
  20. Is the phenomenon happening on Wikipedia?
  21. Most edited pages of the month ( - 4 March 2011)1. 2011 Libyan uprising 11. 2011 Egyptian protests2. 2011 Libyan protests 12. 2010-2011 pro-democracy protests3. Deaths in 2011 13. 2010-2011 Pro-democracy protests4. 2011 Christchurch earthquake 14. 2010-2011 North Africa and Western Asia protests5. 2010-2011 Arab world protests 15. 2010-2011 Pro-democracy protests6. 2010-2011 Middle East and North Africa 16. 2011 Libyan Revoltprotests7. The Undertaker 17. 2011 Canterbury earthquake8. Egyptian Revolution of 2011 18. Gary Moore9. 2011 Egyptian revolution 19. 2011 Wisconsin protests10. Watson (artificial intelligence software) 20. Libyan Revolution
  22. ”2011 Egyptian revolution” page in different language Wikipedias English English Arabic Arabic German Germa Egyptia Egyptia (en) (en) Talk (ar) (ar) (de) n (de) n n Arabic Talk Talk Arabic (arz) (arz) TalkEdits 6059 2741 1269 99 961 315 448 8Average 134.6 60.9 28.2 2.2 21.4 7.0 10.0 0.2edits perdayEditors 1190 282 236 24 264 79 35 5 Egyptian Revolution started in 25 January 2011 - Data up to 10 March 2011 (45 days)
  23. Ongoing research and directions Who edits? When? Why? How? Where?
  24. Research: When English English Arabic Arabic German German Egyptian Egyptian (en) (en) Talk (ar) (ar) Talk (de) (de) Talk Arabic Arabic (arz) (arz) TalkCreation date 25 January 25 January 25 25 26 January 26 28 05 2011, 2011, January January 2011, January January February 13:26 (by 13:26 (by 2011, 2011, 10:53 (by 2011, 2011, 2011, The The 16:55 (by 20:35 (by 195.145.91 11:24 (by 01:52 (by 18:01 (by Egyptian Egyptian ‫)عمرو‬ Jo .170) Generat) Ghaly) Faris Liberal) Liberal) NaHaL) knight) 77% of articles about recent traumatic events created in two days after the event [Ferron,Massa 2011] But 1 policy and 2 essays warn about documenting ”current events” in Wikipedia Wikipedia:NOT#JOURNALISM, Wikipedia:Recentism, Wikipedia:Wikipedia is not a newspaper “recentism” = contributing to an article without a long-term historical view Harder to reach NPOV on current, non settled-down events
  25. Research: When (2) Article: 2011 Egyptian revolutionHigh edit activity in the first days(524 edits/day to the article from 28January to 2 February; 235 edits/dayto the talk page from 29 January to23 February)Increase of edit activity the dayMubarak resigned (same pattern forpages about the Tunisian revolution)Question: which events triggerparticipation? ©
  26. Research: When (3) Edit activity increases in anniversaries (88 articles and talk pages about traumatic events: significant increase) Some of these edits reveal the emotional bonding function of collective memory – commemoration Talk page of "September 11 attacks": "Tonight in Australia is the 5 Year anniversary of the Sep 11 attacks. [...] My prayers are with those who are related/friends with the dead of Sept 11. (13:34, 11 September 2006)" "[…] my sympathy and prayers to those who mourn this day." (14:08, 11 September 2006) "Spare a thought for those whose lives were torn apart that day." (14:39, 11 September 2006) [Ferron, M., and Massa, P. 2011. Studying collective memories in Wikipedia. 3rd Digital Memories Conference]
  27. Research: When (3)Changes over time – longitudinal analysis – Who contributes in the first days? Later on others jump in? – Why they contribute (pro? Against? Neutral?) – How they contribute ● Transition from communicative memory (alive) to cultural memory (settled down) – Where they contribute from
  28. Research: Who English (en) English (en) Arabic (ar) Arabic (ar) German (de) German Egyptian Egyptian Talk Talk (de) Talk Arabic (arz) Arabic (arz) TalkEditors 1190 282 236 24 264 79 35 5Edits by the top 4,406 2,193 895 42 572 166 347 210% of active (72.80%) (80.01%) (70.53%) (42.42%) (59.52%) (52.70%) (77.46%) (25.00%)usersMost active The Egyptian Lihaas Ahmed m The In dubio pro In dubio pro Ghaly The Egyptianeditors Liberal (375) rabea Egyptian dubio dubio (168) Liberal (559) (185) Liberal (149) (57) (2) (18) Lihaas The Egyptian ‫خلدون شنتوت‬ Osa osa 5 Goldzahn Generator Samsam22 Samsam22 (486) Liberal (174) (14) (63) (30) (96) (2) (332) Ocaasi Ocaasi Moh2010me Mohamed WikitanvirBot Goldzahn WikitanvirBot Faris knight (275) (314) d Ouda(c) (56) (22) (62) (2) (143) (10) WikitanvirBot Luckas-bot BangertNo Luckas-bot Ghaly (196) (263) (64) (9) (23) (14) (21) (1) Silver seren Osa osa 5 Moh2010me Wikifreund Tfjt EmausBot Egy Observer (187) (144) (43) d (23) (13) (20) (1) (8) Wipsenade Wipsenade Mohamed ‫خلدون شنتوت‬ A.Abdel-Rahim CopperBot (168) (118) ElGedawy (7) (21) (11) (14) (29) Ericoides Knowledgekid8 The ‫أسامة عباس‬ Dinarsad Mr. Mustard Eskandarany (167) 7 Egyptian (5) (21) (10) (8) (75) Liberal (27) Aude Cs32en Luckas-bot ‫غلم السمر‬ Generator The (143) (69) (24) (5) (20) 07 Egyptian (9) Liberal (5)Anonymous edits 1,336 426 202 11 148 73 29 0 (22.08%) (15.54%) (15.92%) (11.11%) (15.40%) (23.17%) (6.47%) (0.00%)
  29. Research: Who (2)Social Network Analysis of Talkpage ”2011 Egyptian revolution”Node=users, edges=direct repliesSize = betweenness centralitycolour = #edits to the articleAthinker just started 9 threads on thetalk page with opinionatedstatements but never took part in thediscussionsSilver seren, high centrality but fewedits to the article[When the Wikipedians Talk: Network andTree Structure of Wikipedia Discussion Pages.Laniado, Tasso, Volkovich, Kaltenbrunner,ICWSM 2011]
  30. Research: How / WhyUser “Silver seren”article page edits = 5talk page edits = 144He explains his self-selected role in some Talk page comments:I dont think im up for article writing right now. Especially not on such anextensive one such as this. But I am definitely up for reference finding.Just let me know what statements you need to have referenced or thetypes of references that you need and ill find them for you. Silverseren08:47, 31 January 2011 (UTC)Cool. Add it to the article -- The Egyptian Liberal (talk) 20:07, 2February 2011 (UTC) No editing from me, thats up to you guys. Im just the reference guy. :P Silverseren 20:11, 2 February 2011 (UTC)
  31. Research: Who (3) Talk: 2011 Egyptian revolutionSocial Network Analysis of User Talk pagesMessages left by “The Egyptian Liberal” on User talk page of “Lihaas”.Hopefully, Mubarak will leave before the article get bigger (for us)and more ppl die (for the Egyptians) -- The Egyptian Liberal (talk)13:48, 3 February 2011 (UTC)OK. Now I am pissed. I saw Omar and Mubaraks Speech. They wantwar, they got one. Tomorrow is going to be the biggest protest theworld have seen in this MILLENNIUM. I got the word right now thatpeople are coming out with numbers that has not been seen on TV.They are also moving to the palace. Bloody fucking idiots, if hestepped down today, noone will be killed tomorrow. -- TheEgyptian Liberal (talk) 21:46, 10 February 2011 (UTC)Conversations on UTP are more personal than those on ATP
  32. Are “The Egyptian Liberal”, “Lihaas” and”Ocaasi” writing history?
  33. Research: who/howPossible to detect who agrees and disagrees withwhom?Weighted networks (pos/neg): Edit war? Whatgets deleted? 2 sides? Role of users? And ofadmins?
  34. Research: Analyse text (what/how)Second day of protests on talk page of “2011 Egyptian revolution” (EnglishWikipedia)This article is not taking a neutral stance. I believe it is forged by anti-regime contributors who are taking the side of the protesters by any meansavailable. Im neither contributing nor will I contribute to the article, but for thosewho are doing so, have some Wikipedian ethics. Thank you.[[User:MagedMahfouz|Maged Mahfouz]] ([[User talk:MagedMahfouz|talk]])16:33, 26 January 2011 (UTC) Well like it or not Maged, when a people rise up and overthrow a despotic regime, the facts of the matter are what they are. One is not anti-fascist by reporting on the Third Reich or the Italian New Order. Nor is there any “forgery”. Your input as a defender of the regime will definitely help the article be a better report of the objective facts, but on the basis of the evidence and assuming no one is ready to provide such support, I suggest the NPOV tag be removed. [[Special:Contributions/|]] ([[User talk:|talk]]) 19:06, 26 January 2011 (UTC)
  35. Research: HowAnalyze Text from edits, talks, user talks, ...Automated content analysisWe have created PYWC, open source version ofLIWC, which computes percentage of words of atext falling in 80 psychological/social categoriessuch as positive/negative emotions, anxiety,anger, sadness, family, past/present/future, ...[Pennebaker, J. W., Francis, M. E., and Booth, R. J. 2001. Linguistic inquiry and word count (LIWC)]PYWC code at
  36. Traumatic events vs other pages
  37. Emotional timeline of London Bombings on Wikipedia Anxiety Talk: 7 July 2005 London bombings
  38. Emotional timeline of London Bombings on Wikipedia Anxiety Talk: 7 July 2005 London bombings
  39. Cross-cultural compare Linguistic Points Of View (LPOV) of Wikipedia communities Same patterns in all 280 language editions of Wikipedias? Same users involved? With different roles? Automatically detect different representations of same event (Israeli–Palestinian conflict on Arabic/Hebrew WP)?
  40. Research: Where|en|2011_Egyptian_revolution
  41. Research: WhereWikitrip of 2011 Egyptian revolution page on Arabic Wikipedia
  42. SummaryCollective memory building of current eventsdoes happen in WikipediaPossible to study ”history” in real time:historiography2.0Ongoing research and directions: jump in!
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  44. Thank you!Questions?
  45. Collective Memory building in Wikipedia: the case of North African uprisingsMichela Ferron Paolo MassaCenter for Mind/Brain SoNet - FondazioneSciences Bruno Kessler (FBK)University of Trento, Italy Trento, Italy - phauly @ Wikipedia -