Transparency, Control, and Content Generation on Wikipedia: Editorial Strategies and Technical Affordances

  • Sorin Adam MateiEmail author
  • Jeremy Foote
Part of the Computational Social Sciences book series (CSS)


The sparse nature of Wikipedia’s main content interface, dominated by clearly laid out content, neatly organized into information boxes, and structured into headings and subheadings projects an image of a simple and flexible content management system. Even though the process of social production that undergirds Wikipedia is rife with conflict, power struggles, revert wars, content transactions, and coordination efforts, not to mention vandalism, the article pages on Wikipedia shun information gauges that highlight the social nature of the contributions. Rather, they are characterized by a “less is more” ideology of design, which aims to maximize readability and to encourage future contributions. The tools for discerning the social dynamics that lead to the creation of any given page are buried deep into the structure of the interface. Often they are created and maintained by voluntary contributors, who host the information on their own servers. The reason for which the design choices made for the Wikipedia interface hide rather than highlight the true nature of these social dynamics remains a continuous motive for puzzlement.

Closer investigation reveals that the deceivingly simple nature of the interface is in fact a method to attract new collaborators and to establish content credibility. As Wikipedia has matured, its public notoriety demands a new approach to the manner in which Wikipedia reflects the rather complex process of authorship on its content pages. This chapter discusses a number of visualizations designed to support this goal, and discusses why they have not as yet been adopted into the Wikipedia interface. The ultimate aim of the chapter is to highlight that in an era of socially constructed knowledge the debate about the desirability of visualizing the process by which knowledge is produced on social media should be about more than “responsive interfaces” and maximizing contributions. The ethical implications of knowing who is responsible for producing the content are important and should be made visible in collaborative knowledge production projects.


Language Edition Editorial Strategy Article Page Social Structuration Talk Page 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Adler, B. T., Chatterjee, K., De Alfaro, L., Faella, M., Pye, I., & Raman, V. (2008). Assigning trust to Wikipedia content. In Proceedings of the 4th International Symposium on Wikis. New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  2. Bagley, T. H. (2013). Spymaster: Startling cold war revelations of a Soviet KGB chief. New York: Skyhorse.Google Scholar
  3. Bao, P., Hecht, B., Carton, S., Quaderi, M., Horn, M., & Gergle, D. (2012, May). Omnipedia: Bridging the Wikipedia language gap. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1075–1084). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  4. Biuk-Aghai, R. P., Pang, C.-I., & Si, Y.-W. (2014). Visualizing large-scale human collaboration in Wikipedia. Future Generation Computer Systems, 31, 120–133. doi: 10.1016/j.future.2013.04.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bryant, S. L., Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia. In Proceedings of the 2005 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work (pp. 1–10). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  6. Giles, J. (2005). Internet encyclopaedias go head to head. Nature, 438(7070), 900–901.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital na(t)ives? variation in internet skills and uses among members of the “net generation”. Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), 92–113. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-682X.2009.00317.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hill, B. M., & Shaw, A. (2013). The Wikipedia gender gap revisited: Characterizing survey response bias with propensity score estimation. PLoS One, 8(6), e65782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Hughes, B., Joshi, I., Lemonde, H., & Wareham, J. (2009). Junior physician’s use of Web 2.0 for information seeking and medical education: A qualitative study. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 78(10), 645–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Keegan, B., Gergle, D., & Contractor, N. (2013). Hot off the wiki: Structures and dynamics of Wikipedia’s coverage of breaking news events. American Behavioral Scientist, 57(5), 595–622.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Kittur, A., Chi, E., Pendleton, B. A., Suh, B., & Mytkowicz, T. (2007). Power of the few vs. wisdom of the crowd: Wikipedia and the rise of the bourgeoisie. World Wide Web, 1(2), 19.Google Scholar
  12. Matei, S. A., Bruno, R., & Morris, P. (2015). Visible effort: Visualizing and measuring group structuration through social entropy. In S. A. Matei, M. Russell, & E. Bertino (Eds.), Transparency in social media—Tools, methods and algorithms for mediating online interactions. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  13. Matei, S. A., & Dobrescu, C. (2010). Wikipedia’s “neutral point of view”: Settling conflict through ambiguity. The Information Society, 27(1), 40–51.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Matei, S. A., Tan, W., Zhu, M., Bertino, E., & Liu, C. (2014). Elite size and resilience impact on global system structuration. In The 2014 International Conference on Collaboration Technologies and Systems (CTS 2014), Minnesota, May 19–20.Google Scholar
  15. Nov, O. (2007). What motivates Wikipedians? Communications of the ACM, 50(11), 60–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Rector, L. H. (2008). Comparison of Wikipedia and other encyclopedias for accuracy, breadth, and depth in historical articles. Reference Services Review, 36(1), 7–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Shaw, A., & Hill, B. M. (2014). Laboratories of oligarchy? How the iron law extends to peer production. Journal of Communication, 64(2), 215–238.CrossRefzbMATHGoogle Scholar
  18. Slattery, S. P. (2009). “Edit this page”: The socio-technological Infrastructure of a Wikipedia article. In Proceedings of the 27th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication (pp. 289–296). New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/1621995.1622052.Google Scholar
  19. Suh, B., Chi, E. H., Kittur, A., & Pendleton, B. A. (2008). Lifting the veil: Improving accountability and social transparency in Wikipedia with wikidashboard. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1037–1040). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  20. Swarts, J. (2009). The collaborative construction of “fact” on Wikipedia. In Proceedings of the 27th ACM International Conference on Design of Communication (pp. 281–288). New York: ACM. doi:10.1145/1621995.1622051.Google Scholar
  21. Viégas, F. B., Wattenberg, M., & Dave, K. (2004, April). Studying cooperation and conflict between authors with history flow visualizations. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 575–582). New York: ACM.Google Scholar
  22. Voss, J. (2005). Measuring Wikipedia. In Proceedings of 10th International Conference of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics, Stockholm, Sweden.Google Scholar
  23. Wattenberg, M., Viégas, F. B., & Hollenbach, K. (2007). Visualizing activity on Wikipedia with chromograms. In Human-Computer Interaction–INTERACT 2007 (pp. 272–287). Berlin, Germany: Springer.Google Scholar
  24. Yasseri, T., Spoerri, A., Graham, M., & Kertész, J. (2014). The most controversial topics in Wikipedia: A multilingual and geographical analysis. In P. Fichman & N. Hara (Eds.), Global Wikipedia: International and cross-cultural issues in online collaboration. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Brian Lamb School of CommunicationPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA
  2. 2.Doctoral StudentNorthwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Personalised recommendations