410 Gone”: Infocide in Open Content Communities

Joseph Reagle

Where is Pilgrim?

410 Gone

What do we call this?


Online suicide




Infocide in OCC

Community exit and the removal of one’s presence and contributions in an open content community


open and voluntary communities producing free cultural products Time
2006-2012 Data
100+ sources Approach
naturalistic inquiry via theoretical sampling / emergent design Analysis
iteratively coding sources into various categories

Motives and enactment

(1) Real Exhaustion

“It’s time for me to find a new hobby. Preferably one that doesn’t involve angle brackets. Or computers. Or electricity.” (Pilgrim 2004 qtd in rileyw 2011)

I recently returned to photography after a long absence…. If you’ve written to me in the past few years and I haven’t responded, I apologize; and if you’ve known me that long, you probably already know why.

(2) Community discontent

(3) Privacy: The collision of the real and virtual

Community responses

(1) Silence

(2) Drama

(3) Sleuthing

a little later…

Mark Pilgrim made The Economist blog

Phil Agre made NPR

“JZ’s” mysterious ailment made Boing Boing

(4) Thanks and mirrors

Barnstar for missing Wikipedians

Mirrors of _why’s work {data-background=“LightBlue”}



Responses include being…

Yet, should people be able to infocide?

The right to be forgotten?

Infocide > removing an embarrassing MySpace page

“Right to Leave” vs. “Wiki Mind Wipe”

Thank you