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<nettime> RS: Wikipedia as expert NGO
Fuster, Mayo on Tue, 28 Sep 2010 21:11:28 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> RS: Wikipedia as expert NGO


Thank you Felix for your reflections. Complements to Johanna Niestyo for organizing the event and for deciding to brought together researchers studying Wikipedia and 'Wikipedians'.

I think Wikipedia logo (a puzzle) is a good representation of what it is. Wikipedia is a multi-dimensional process, which is able to combine diverse organizational logics, even to combine "opposite" strategies depending on the context or what needs to be done. While the shift to focus on quality, which Felix refers to, and also the increase of policies, which might difficult the inclusion of new content and of newbess, is characteristic of the 10 biggest Wikipedias (English, German etc); the opposite strategy is present on the small Wikipedias. The aim to growth in content (any content) and in number of people involved in small Wikipedias facilitate the inclusion of new content and people. I found this second aspect more characteristic of the overall Wikipedia, than the first one. The question of priories the expansion in terms of Wikipedia in other languages (particularly minority languages) and with editors based in other latitude was very present in the discussions of the two last Wikimanias (main annual meeting point of Wikipedians), and in the conclusions of the strategic planning for the next 5 years. 

In other words, to me the shift to quality is not representative of the whole Wikipedia process, but of the biggest (and in languages of the more developed countries) parts of it. Furthermore, the question if all linguistic wikipedias share similar evolutionary paths as they evolve in time and as the community and content growth, is something to reflect carefully; as Wikipedian communities (even if sharing key features) can also be very culturally and in the governing mode diverse between them; and the context of the community of editors of a Wikipedia can be very diverse depending on the language. It is not the same the German Wikipedia, than the Wikipedia in a language where there is any other writing encyclopaedia available. 

The porosity of the borders between "insiders" and "outsiders" might also be different in a big Wikipedia, than in a small one, however, I think Felix point to something which applied to both in some degree: Wikipedia communities select people, filter the participants, not anyone is welcome to stay. However, this filtering is not based on "external" expertise or credentials, but on "internal" credentials, as far as the editor behave appropriately accounting to Wikipedia social norms and policies. In some degree, the question that these norms and policies are writing (even if other aspects such as trust, reputation, capacity of influence etc, also intervene in the inclusion/exclusion of people), make Wikipedia to handle exclusion in a more clear way than in other collective process. For example, to me the exclusion of people in the experience of Squats or Social Centers was more dramatic or opaque. 
Additionally, Wikipedia communities tend to be more mission oriented than method oriented, that is, while social movements such as the Global Justice Movement tend to highly value the preservation of a method (consensus decision-making, horizontalily, etc), Wikipedia process is shaped by the "building" an encyclopaedia, not primarily by building a way of organizing accounting to a pre-established principles; even more, the different tasks that require to build of an encyclopaedia do not necessarily follow the same principles. Let's think of how diverse is the organizational principles of the Wikimedia Foundations, with the communities, or the decision-making of the main EN page with other pages. In sum, think this puzzling of Wikipedia is the more characteristic of it; which also complicate its characterization and analysis.

In terms of agenda settings, as Felix pointed out, people more involve have more possibility to set the agenda (and intervene in the governance) than those who are less (in line with the principle of doagraphy present in Wikipedia: who does something have the authority over it). However, I would suggest to also go beyond the thinking in terms of who has the power on Wikipedia, where is the center of the circle, do have the older insider more capacity to set the agenda than the outsiders, etc.. What I found more problematic in these organizational strategies (of large scale participation, decentralised, which combine several forms and degrees of participation, with porous boundaries, etc.) is their  difficulty of clearly define and control their collective will, by ANYONE. Even if it sound suggestive, this have some costs. To me it is related to the weaknesses of these forms to re-programme themselves or overcome big changes of agenda or of settings; or to interface with the external world (in both directions, on the one hand, that these forms reproduce (or even in some cases reinforce) social inequalities already present in society (let's think of the gender gap), and on the other hand, it is difficult to establish the responsibilities and consequences in society of the important services that they offer).

>Second, it's likely that the variety of knowledges that flow into the
>making of entries is being decreased, in favor of more conventional,
>mainstream expert knowledge. Thus, reproducing the dominant point of
>view, rather than highlighting controversies around main of the issues
>covered. Something a collaborative open process would be uniquely
>capabale of. This tendency towards the dominant center is already
>strong through the policy of the Neutral Point of View and the
>somewhat antiquated notion that there is an uncontroversial state of
>the art, that describes the world out there. Yet, this is acerbated by
>the informal changes in the organization itself.
I found the Neutral Point of view a horrible title that does not well represent what actually refer to, and that bring in many cases to confusion. However, my point here is that even if the variety of knowledge might decrease due to the increase of barriers to make contributions in German Wikipedia, this does not mean that it would be towards the more conventional mainstream one for that reason. I would be curious to reflect on this with research that check if the number of edits and the number of editors by articles have increased or decreased in German Wikipedia in recent years; and if the reporting of Wikipedia issues  (in comparison to mainstream newspapers for example) tend to reproduce the same vision or not. 


«·´`·.(*·.¸(`·.¸ ¸.·´)¸.·*).·´`·»
«·´¨*·¸¸« Mayo Fuster Morell ».¸.·*¨`·»
«·´`·.(¸.·´(¸.·* *·.¸)`·.¸).·´`·»

Research Digital Commons Governance: http://www.onlinecreation.info
European University Institute - Phd Candidate
School of information Berkeley Visiting researcher
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