A Communicative Ethnography of Argumentative Strategies in a Wikipedian Content Dispute

less than 1 minute read


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.