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

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

Abstract

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.

Keywords

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.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

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

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