Results as of Fall 2005

I’m now in my third year at NYU; the first and second year exams are done, and after this semester I will have satisfied my course requirements. (This semester I’m taking methodological courses including ethnography, history, and statistics.) The outstanding item, then, will be the completion and approval of my proposal – which will also include finding a third member for my committee.

The majority of my efforts are focused on the Wikipedia; some recent drafts that may be of interest on that note include:

  • Arguments Among Friends: the Wikipedia - a snapshot of the sharp point (sans literature review) of my proposal:

    The Wikipedia is not merely an online encyclopedia; while the Web site is useful, popular, and permits anyone to contribute, the site is only the most visible artifact of an active community. Unlike previous reference works which stand on library shelves distanced from the institutions, people, and discussions from which they arose, the Wikipedia is a community, and the encyclopedia is a snapshot of its continuing conversation.

  • Four Short Stories about the Reference Work - an encounter with four themes in the history of reference work production that I think are also relevant to the Wikipedia; I hope to complement this, this semester, by situating the Wikipedia in the other realm of online knowledge production:

    Many histories can be written of the reference work. There is the chronicle of technical and institutional forces intertwined in the production of the book: of conquest, co-option, trade wars, empire and religion. Also, there’s the drama of clashing conservative and progressive impulses: the expectation for the humble reference work to fixate the social order, or to shatter it and form a new realization of social possibility. There are tales of great and eccentric personalities: the perseverance of men who dedicate their lives to the tasks of organizing everything known about the universe. Finally, there is the story of collaboration: of people standing on the shoulders of giants and of plagiarism.

    Of course, these do not exhaust the potential perspectives with which to view the development of the reference work but these are the ones presented in this essay. My goal is to consider the history of reference works, specifically the dictionary and encyclopedia, from these perspectives in order to contextualize a more focused history and ethnography of the Wikipedia, an on-line collaborative encyclopedia; I hope to encounter salient issues of the past that might be relevant to the present day.

  • Is the Wikipedia Neutral? - an (early draft) extension of A Case of Mutual Aid: Wikipedia, Politeness, and Perspective Taking to tease apart what is meant by something being neutral, and is it the right term to describe Wikipedia efforts:

    Claims of neutrality and accusations of bias are common themes of contemporary discourse about the media, government, education, and technology. In this essay I extend earlier work on the collaborative culture of Wikipedia (an on-line and free encyclopedia) to specifically focus on the fundamental but often misunderstood notion of neutrality.... This essay is inspired by earlier debates on neutrality of technical standards, literature on bias in technical systems, my present fascination with this Wikipedia norm and a change in my belief that while an important concept, the label of neutrality was an unfortunate coinage in the Wikipedia context.

Ported/Archived Responses

jakob on 2005-10-29

The link to “Arguments Among Friends: the Wikipedia” is broken.

Trackback from Wikimetrics on 2005-10-29

Before I stumbled upon Fabio Vitali and Angelo Di Iorio I thought that hypermedia research community (remeber Xanadu?) is ignoring wikis. They published several papers about IsaWiki, a WYSIWYG-wiki. Some weeks ago Joseph Reagle wrote about Neutrality i…

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