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Submissions/Cyberactivism and Nationalistic Communicative Actions of Publics: Framing and Agenda-Building over Wikipedia in International Disputes

From Wikimania 2013 • Hong Kong

After careful consideration, the programme committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2013 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no.
Subject no.
Title of the submission
Cyberactivism and Nationalistic Communicative Actions of Publics: Framing and Agenda-Building over Wikipedia in International Disputes
Type of submission
Author of the submission
Laishan Tam
Country of origin
Indiana, USA / Hong Kong
Brian Lamb School of Communication, Purdue University
E-mail address

Publics arise when they are confronted with a common problem and decide to do something about it. They are engaged in different communicative actions for problem solving, including information acquisition, selection and transmission. Tracking the changes of the Wikipedia page on the disputable Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, this study has identified that publics are more actively engaged in making changes on its Wikipedia page when media coverage increases. The page contributes to be dominated by a small number of contributors; the changes made also shows the presence of group polarization, indicating the significance of Wikipedia as a platform for problem solving.

Detailed proposal

In the practice of public relations, which is defined as “a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics,” publics refer to individuals who are confronted with a common problem and organize themselves to solve the problems. Wikipedia, as one of most importance sources of information, has been a platform where publics’ communicative behaviors of information acquisition, selection and transmission take place for the purpose of problem solving. More importantly, as a platform of open collaboration, individuals’ contribution of information contributes to the constant ongoing processes of framing and agenda building, making Wikipedia a site of contestation of ideas.

The mission of the Wikimedia Foundation is to “empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content and either publish under a free license or dictate it to the public domain” – it is an infrastructure which brings together an international community who both contributes to and receives information for free. While Wikipedia empowers individuals to produce content on its pages, the credibility of its content is debatable. Some believe that due to the high number of people who view and have access to make changes to each topic, false important can be corrected easily and quickly. On the other hand, some still believe that its being a free online encyclopedia to which everyone can make contributions causes an absence of neutral information.

This study examined the changes which have been made to the Wikipedia page about the international dispute over the resourceful Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands, whose sovereignty has been a dispute between the Chinese and Japanese governments since the Second World War. The dispute was selected as a case because of its being an international issue which has been repeatedly reported in the media. At the same time, the dispute between two countries often leads to the rise of nationalistic sentiments and possibly results in group polarization on the information about whether the Islands belong to one or the other.

Specifically, the study raised research questions about the nature of the communicative behaviors of those who have contributed to the page based on the content. Furthermore, it related the number of changes made to the page to the amount of media coverage. My other research study indicates that there is a transfer of the salience of the issue from the media to online discussion forums, indicating how the media has triggered the rise of publics who collectively engage in communicative actions for problem solving. Unlike online discussion forums, which do not have rules about the balance and the sources of information, Wikipedia plays a particular crucial role in allowing ideas to be contested under certain rules and norms exercised within the Wikipedia community.

All in all, as a site of contestation of ideas, this study proposed Wikipedia as a platform of communicative actions for problem solving. Theoretically, a qualitative content analysis of the changes made helped to derive the frames of the content, after which evidence of group polarization and communicative actions could be gathered for the development of more insights into how communication processes on Wikipedia resulted in the outcome of information production on Wikipedia. Practically, the study provides implications for Wikipedia to create better designs and cultivate more effective rules and norms to better engage with its contributors about the quality and distribution of the content.

  • Analysis and Public Engagement
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Language of presentation/talk
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