Submissions/Collaborative or Conflict-Driven? Conflict Trajectories on Wikipedia

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Submission no. 
Subject no. 
Title of the submission
Collaborative or Conflict-Driven? Conflict Trajectories on Wikipedia
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Dariusz Jemielniak (pundit)
Country of origin
Kozminski University
E-mail address
Personal homepage or blog

Wikipedia is often presented as a collaborative endeavor. While it surely is collaborative, it is to large extent also fueled by conflicts. Conflicts are a part of Wikipedia experience much more than any conscious collaborating with others. The question is, why are the conflicts so typical, why do they arise even about mundane issues, and why are they so long? In my presentation, basing on a qualitative analysis of one of the largest conflicts in Wikipedia, I want to show the typical trajectories of conflicts on Wikipedia, the reasons for them, as well as present lessons from other participative communities.

Detailed proposal

Somebody is wrong on the Internet, so I have to tell them. This is one of the reasons many of us edit Wikipedia or enter debates. In fact, the discussions and conflicts on Wikipedia often elude reason - should it be yogurt or yoghurt? Does Mexico have an official language? Ganges or Ganga? Was Chopin Polish, French, none or both? As most of us know perfectly well, these few examples of conflicts (each taking thousands and thousands of words to settle) are but a tip of an iceberg. Wikipedians, much as they love peace and quiet, and much as they are required to avoid personal attacks, be forgiving, and generally amiable, still wallow in conflicts all the time.

In my presentation, basing on a longitudinal, qualitative, ethnographic, study of Wikipedia community (en-wiki and pl-wiki), conducted 2006-2012, relying on my experience of participating in the community in several different roles (admin, bureaucrat, steward, etc.), and forthcoming in a book later this year, I want to present an analysis of typical conflict trajectories on Wikipedia. I am going to use the so-called critical case analysis, and base the discussion on the most epic and longest edit war in the history of English Wikipedia, that is the infamous Gdańsk-Danzig war, which I analyzed edit by edit and comment by comment (over 400 thousand words). I want to show that conflicts are not only inevitable on Wikipedia, but that they are an important reason making people edit. Conflicts help increase the stakes of staying in the community and escalate the commitment. And they are persistent exactly because of the way the social system of Wikipedia interactions is designed: breaking the rules results in blocks, so the only way to win an argument is to add sources and repeat our view long enough.

And yet, the trajectories of conflicts (I am going to describe the four most common ones) are far from optimal, as they often result from editors' exhaustion, and quitting (especially in the case of new editors, whose commitment has not escalated yet). In the presentation I am going to offer several possible tweaks and lessons from other participative communities and open collaboration methodologies (action research, Mondragon, etc.). Pundit (talk) 09:53, 7 February 2013 (UTC)

  • WikiCulture and Community

Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Language of presentation/talk
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