I have spent much of the summer working on revising the dissertation into a book manuscript. One of the big changes is a new chapter on Wikipedia consensus. If you would be willing to provide me with feedback, I would be happy to share a draft:
H. G. Wells (1936) thought the "World Encyclopedia" should be more than an information repository, it should also be an institution of "adjustment and adjudication; a clearinghouse of misunderstandings" (p. 921). Wikipedia certainly has its share of misunderstandings, some imported from the conflicted world it documents and some unique to its own undertaking. An example of a contagious real world conflict is the already discussed "Creation-Evolution Controversy" (Wkipedia 2008cec). Also, political and ethnic differences are often mirrored at Wikipedia, prompting the formation of a "Working Group on Ethnic and Cultural Edit Wars" (Wikipedia 2008wgo). There are also plenty of local "misunderstandings," such as whether every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer deserves its own article. I raised this dispute earlier to illustrate two opposing philosophies at Wikipedia: inclusionism and deletionism. This issue, and the proliferation of articles, gave rise to an even more trivial -- though no less bellicose -- debate: If every television show episode has its own article, how should they be named so as not to conflict with other articles? This discussion reveals possible misunderstandings about consensus, and the difficulties of this decision-making practice in an open community.
In this chapter, I identify the difficulties of consensus decision-making, and its meaning and practice at Wikipedia. I consider this relative to insights from literature about consensus in "real life" communities, such as the Quakers, and the collaborators who built the Internet and Web using "rough consensus and running code."
Ed H. Chi on 2008-09-01
Our own research into conflicts in Wikipedia led me to believe that conflict is what ultimately drives Wikipedia forward. The identification of conflict at the global, topic, and article/user levels are tricky business.
Aniket Kittur, Bongwon Suh, Bryan Pendleton, Ed H. Chi. He Says, She Says: Conflict and Coordination in Wikipedia. In Proc. of ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI2007), pp. 453--462, April 2007. ACM Press. San Jose, CA.
Joseph Reagle on 2008-09-02
@Ben, please send an email and I'll send you a copy.
@Ed, I've enjoyed and am familiar with your work, I cite it in my dissertation and mention it on this blog here:
Ben Brumfield on 2008-08-30
I'd love to review your chapter, if you're interested in amateur feedback. My own ramblings on the subject are here.