Wikimedia Research Showcase - July 17, 2019

The next Research Showcase will be live-streamed next Wednesday, July 17, at 11:30 AM PDT/18:30 UTC.

YouTube stream:

As usual, you can join the conversation on IRC at #wikimedia-research. You can also watch our past research showcases here:

This month’s presentations:

Characterizing Incivility on Wikipedia

Elizabeth Whittaker, University of Michigan School of Information

In a society whose citizens have a variety of viewpoints, there is a question of how citizens can govern themselves in ways that allow these viewpoints to co-exist. Online deliberation has been posited as a problem solving mechanism in this context, and civility can be thought of as a mechanism that facilitates this deliberation. Civility can thus be thought of as a method of interaction that encourages collaboration, while incivility disrupts collaboration. However, it is important to note that the nature of online civility is shaped by its history and the technical architecture scaffolding it. Civility as a concept has been used both to promote equal deliberation and to exclude the marginalized from deliberation, so we should be careful to ensure that our conceptualizations of incivility reflect what we intend them to in order to avoid unintentionally reinforcing inequality.

To this end, we examined Wikipedia editors’ perceptions of interactions that disrupt collaboration through 15 semi-structured interviews. Wikipedia is a highly deliberative platform, as editors need to reach consensus about what will appear on the article page, a process that often involves deliberation to coordinate, and any disruption to this process should be apparent. We found that incivility on Wikipedia typically occurs in one of three ways: through weaponization of Wikipedia’s policies, weaponization of Wikipedia’s technical features, and through more typical vitriolic content. These methods of incivility were gendered, and had the practical effect of discouraging women from editing. We implicate this pattern as one of the underlying causes of Wikipedia’s gender gap.

Hidden Gems in the Wikipedia Discussions: The Wikipedians’ Rationales

Lu Xiao, Syracuse University School of Information Studies

I will present a series of completed and ongoing studies that are aimed at understanding the role of the Wikipedians’ rationales in Wikipedia discussions. We define a rationale as one’s justification of her viewpoint and suggestions. Our studies demonstrate the potential of leveraging the Wikipedians’ rationales in discussions as resources for future decision-making and as resources for eliciting knowledge about the community’s norms, practices and policies. Viewed as rich digital traces in these environments, we consider them to be beneficial for the community members, such as helping newcomers familiarize themselves on the commonly accepted justificatory reasoning styles. We call for more research attention to the discussion content from this rationale study perspective.

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