Algorithms as agents of gatekeeping, governance, and articulation work in Wikipedia


Talk at Algorithms, Automation, and Politics workshop, Fukuoka, Japan

This talk is based on a multi-year ethnographic study of algorithmic software agents in Wikipedia, where bots and automated tools have fundamentally transformed the nature of the notoriously decentralized, ‘anyone can edit’ encyclopedia project. I studied how the development and operation of automated software agents intersected with the development of organizational structures and epistemic norms. My ethnography of infrastructure (Star, 1999) involved participant-observation in various spaces of Wikipedia. I discuss how algorithmic systems are deployed to enforce particular behavioral and epistemological standards in Wikipedia, which can become a site for collective sensemaking among veteran Wikipedians.