[iDC] Collective Action

Benjamin Geer benjamin.geer at gmail.com
Sun Jun 18 07:10:31 EDT 2006

On 18/06/06, Trebor Scholz <trebor at thing.net> wrote:
> The number of
> frequent contributors to Wikipedia, for example, is relatively small and
> their motivations for participation are not completely non-agonistic
> (pure sharing; higher goals; help humanity). Hanah Arendt argued that
> people have a keen interest in contributing to something larger than
> themselves but most contributors to this free encyclopedia are, however,
> driven by authorship pride -- and -- an urge to contribute to the public
> good.

While this may be true in the case of uncontroversial articles, e.g.
about mathematics, in my personal experience, a lot of the people who
contribute to Wikipedia articles in English, on politically
controversial subjects, seem to be motivated by the desire to promote
an ideology at all costs, typically an ideology of the American far
right.  These are the people who repeatedly, insistently, copy and
paste material from conspiracy theory web sites or neoconservative
propaganda web sites into Wikipedia articles, or just make things up,
relying only on their imagination, and insert them without citing any
sources.  If you want to maintain any kind of scholarly standards in a
Wikipedia article, it can be very difficult to avoid an edit war with
them, and of course every time you revert their edits, you'll be
accused of promoting your own bias and censoring other points of view.
 Wikipedia policy encourages compromise and, last time I checked at
least, doesn't take a clear stand on what kinds of sources are
acceptable.  Anyone can anonymously put up a web site somewhere for
their own rantings, and cite that web site as a source on Wikipedia.
The result is often something like this cartoon:


> I am not immediately convinced that participation in sociable web media
> is really divided along lines of traditional disenfranchisement. Just
> consider that in March 2006 the Web comprised a total of 694 million
> unique visitors (i.e. 152.1 million in the USA and 74.7 million in
> China) and The Washington Post reports that in March 2006 alone 15.6
> million people used Blogger.com, YouTube had 12.5 million unique users,
> and that MySpace.com had 37 million contributing visitors that month
> alone.

That's not a lot in a world of 6 billion inhabitants.  How many of
those users are among the world's poorest people?

> Social networking sites in general attracted 45% of active Internet
> users in the US in April 2006. Recent studies by the Pew Internet and
> American Life Project have shown that 73% of all Americans identify
> themselves as Internet users, of which 51 million (57% of all American
> teenagers) are involved in online content production.

America is the world's richest country; it's not surprising that there
are a lot of Internet users there.  Do you have statistics for any
poor countries?


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