Bots and Cyborgs: Wikipedia’s Immune System

My frequent collaborator Aaron Halfaker has written up a fantastic article with John Riedl in Computer reviewing a lot of the work we’ve done on algorithmic agents in Wikipedia, casting them as Wikipedia’s immune system. Choice quote:  “These bots and cyborgs are more than tools to better manage content quality on Wikipedia—through their interaction with humans, they’re fundamentally changing its culture.”

WikiConference New York: An Open Unconference

Jimmy Wales speaking at the conference keynote, by Laurence Perry, CC BY-SA 3.0

Jimmy Wales speaking at the conference keynote, by GreenReaper, CC BY-SA 3.0

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of presenting at the first (hopefully annual) WikiConference New York, sponsored by the Wikimedia New York City chapter with assistance from Free Culture @ NYU and the Information Law Institute at NYU’s law school. I know that I am atrociously late in writing this post, but I’m not really writing it for the Wikipedians out there. Rather, the WikiConference was an interesting experiment that seemed to apply Wikipedia’s philosophy towards editing to a conference, resulting in what the organizers called a “modified unconference.”

Do you support Wikipedia? News from the Trenches of the Science Wars 2.0

This is a paper I wrote for a class on “Technology and Critique” – a class that blended critical theory with Science and Technology Studies.  Taking from Bruno Latour’s “Do you believe in Reality?  News from the Trenches of the Science Wars,” this work is a critical examination of the way in which the on-line encyclopedia Wikipedia has been implicitly cast as a continuation of the Science Wars.  Instead of debating about the efficacy and authority of science, academics are now debating the efficacy and authority of Wikipedia. Using Martin Heidegger’s work on ontology and technology, I argue that this particular academic mindset is a way of being-in-the-world that works to either affirm or negate the integration of Wikipedia into its particular projects – namely, the production of academic knowledge.  However, I show that asking whether Wikipedia is a reliable academic source enframes Wikipedia into an objectless standing-reserve of potential citations, foreclosing many other possibilities for its use.  Instead of following Steven Colbert and countless academics by asking what Wikipedia has done to reality, I ask: what have we done to Wikipedia in the name of reality?


Researching Wikipedia Holistically: A Tentative Approach

This is a tentative article-length introduction to my thesis on Wikipedia. It is an attempt to analyze Wikipedia from an interdisciplinary perspective that tries to make problematic various assumptions, concepts, and relations that function quite well in the “real world” but are not well-suited to studying Wikipedia. I begin by talking about the nature of academic disciplines, then proceed to a detailed but sparse review of certain prior research on Wikipedia. By examining the problems in previous research within the context of disciplines, I establish a tentative methodology for a holistic study of Wikipedia.

Words and Things: A De-Re-Sub-Post-Construction of Rhizomatic and Non-Arborescent Stratum in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus

This was my final project for an Information Studies class I took back in 2006, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Texas.  Our assignment was to transform information from one form to another, and I chose to perform this analysis of Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus.  I scanned and OCRed the entire book and did a visual frequency representation of certain words.  I analyzed by chapter and comprehensively with certain core themes in the work.  I also did a comprehensive analysis with more general or common words. It is intended to look the way it does, as I am going for a “1960s IBM goes to the academy” look. Take what you will from it: it is about 35% art, 25% snarky pastiche, 15% pretending to be linguistics, and -5% serious intellectual critique.  Here is a sample:


Download Words and Things: A De-Re-Sub-Post-Construction of Rhizomatic and Non-Arborescent Stratum in Deleuze and Guattari’s A Thousand Plateaus (PDF, 398 KB)

Wikimania 2008: Content and the Internet in the (Globalized) Middle East

Content and the Internet in the (Globalized) Middle East, Dr. Ahmed Tantawi, Technical Director, IBM Middle East and North Africa.  Another copy of my notes from Wikimania 2008 – this was the keynote speech on the second day of the conference.  He began by warning us that, “I’ve changed this presentation, and I’ll change it during.  That is open content, yes?”  Everyone laughed.


Memetic Inkblots

I’ve been tossing around this concept of the memetic inkblot, which refers to units of cultural information (memes) that have effectively no singular semiotic value and therefore serve as a psychosocial indicator. In other words, they are so vague and open to interpretation that you can learn a lot about someone by asking someone to give a simple definition of them. Now, if semiotics has taught me anything, it is that the sign is nothing but a social construction, and I do not intend to make the mistake of attributing intrinsic value to any meme. Obviously, how someone feels about anything is a way you can learn about them, but these concepts are so vague that they rarely have a stable, concise definition.


There Is No Cabal: An Investigation into Wikipedia’s Legal Subculture

This is an investigation into an Internet subculture which I wrote for a class I took titled “Rhetorics of Cybercultures.” It is an ethnography into the community formed by small number of Wikipedia contributors who care enough to decide how, at some level, Wikipedia is run. The work discusses identity, communication, and organizational hierarchy in this subculture.


Response: Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City by William Mitchell

In his book Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City, William Mitchell describes how information technology – specifically digital, wireless networks which are accessed primarily through portable devices – fundamentally changes how we interact with others. More than anything else, “[c]onnectivity had become the defining characteristic of our twenty-first-century urban condition” (11). For Mitchell, we have given up the virtual reality fantasy that dominated predictions made in previous decades in lieu of subtler revolution: that of the networked self, the Me++.