The Work of Sustaining Order in Wikipedia: The Banning of a Vandal

With the help of my advisor, Dr. David Ribes, I recently got a chapter of my master’s thesis accepted to the ACM conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, to be held in February 2010 in Savannah, Georgia. It is titled “The Work of Sustaining Order in Wikipedia: The Banning of a Vandal” and focuses on the roles of automated ‘bots’ and assisted editing tools in Wikipedia’s ‘vandal fighting’ network.

Abstract: In this paper, we examine the social roles of software tools in the English-language Wikipedia, specifically focusing on autonomous editing programs and assisted editing tools. This qualitative research builds on recent research in which we quantitatively demonstrate the growing prevalence of such software in recent years. Using trace ethnography, we show how these often-unofficial technologies have fundamentally transformed the nature of editing and administration in Wikipedia. Specifically, we analyze „vandal fighting‟ as an epistemic process of distributed cognition, highlighting the role of non-human actors in enabling a decentralized activity of collective intelligence. In all, this case shows that software programs are used for more than enforcing policies and standards. These tools enable coordinated yet decentralized action, independent of the specific norms currently in force.

Download the full paper (PDF)

Wikisym Poster: The Social Roles of Bots and Assisted Editing Tools

This project investigates various software programs as non-human social actors in Wikipedia,
arguing that their influence must not be overlooked in research of the on-line encyclopedia
project. Using statistical and archival methods, the roles of assisted editing programs and bots are
examined. First, the proportion of edits made by these non-human actors is significantly more
than previously described in earlier research. Second, these actors have moved into new spaces,
changing not just the practice of article writing and reviewing, but also administrative work.

This week, I’m presenting a poster at WikiSym 2009 on “The Social Roles of Bots and Assisted Editing Tools.”  Most of the work is distilled from my thesis.

Abstract: This project investigates various software programs as non-human social actors in Wikipedia, arguing that their influence must not be overlooked in research of the on-line encyclopedia project. Using statistical and archival methods, the roles of assisted editing programs and bots are examined. First, the proportion of edits made by these non-human actors is significantly more than previously described in earlier research. Second, these actors have moved into new spaces, changing not just the practice of article writing and reviewing, but also administrative work.

Download the Poster (PDF)

Download the Extended Abstract (PDF)

And if you are interested in this topic, check out the full paper, The Work of Sustaining Order in Wikipedia: The Banning of a Vandal.

Working Within Wikipedia: Infrastructures of Knowing and Knowledge Production

Here are the slides from a paper I presented at the Science and Technology in Society Conference, hosted by the AAAS this past weekend. I won an award for top paper in my section for it – so I’m pretty happy about it. The full paper is not up because it is a Frankenstein assemblage from my thesis, which I’ll be finishing up in less than a month.

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Conceptions and Misconceptions Academics Hold About Wikipedia

This is a paper I presented at Wikimania 2008, the international conference of those involved with or interested in Wikipedia, Wiktonary, Wikibooks, or any other wiki under the Wikimedia Foundation umbrella. This presentation was about the relationship between Wikipedia and Academia.
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A Communicative Ethnography of Argumentative Strategies in a Wikipedian Content Dispute

This presentation was adapted from a chapter in my Senior thesis on Wikipedia’s legal system that focused on a dispute over the inclusion of images of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in an article about him, using a methodology of communicative ethnography. Most who opposed the image were not familiar with Wikipedia’s unique method of content regulation and dispute resolution, as well as its editorial standards and principles. However, most who argued in favor of keeping the image knew these and initially used them to their advantage. This ethnographic study of the communicative strategies used by the parties involved in the dispute shows how new editors to the user-written encyclopedia first emerged in a hostile communicative environment and subsequently adapted their argumentative strategies. This conflict is an excellent example of how disputes are resolved in Wikipedia, showing how this new media space regulates its own content.