Editor Generated Content?

On: October 4, 2010
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
About Agathe Wiedemair
It all starts in Vienna. I was born there. 25 years ago. Lived in the beautiful (yet a bit conventional) capital of Austria for about 19 years and then decided to leave. I have always been haunted by the desire to leave my hometown, explore new terrains, and get out of my comfort zone. I moved to Urbana-Champaign, IL (google it...I had to as well) to get a Bachelor degree in New Media at the University of Illinois. Why Illinois? Many reasons: Besides their fantastic Media Studies program and a man, I had my mind set on witnessing a tornado. It never happened. I had a wonderful time nevertheless. After moving back to Vienna I barely made it through one year until I got itchy feet again. The choice was between Chicago and Amsterdam, and I decided to go for the one I was more curious about: Amsterdam! So here I am. No tornadoes, but very likely equally windy as Chicago. For those of you who need hard facts: Interests/Hobbies: Electronic music, traveling, running, psychological patterns, group dynamics, cross-cultural interaction, identity in new media culture Degrees: Bachelor in Media Studies (2008), Bachelor in Communications and Journalism (2007)


I am a passive Wikipediaist, and as of this weekend, I will stick with that role. I use Wikipedia mainly as a source of quick, (semi)reliable information; yet I do not share stronger bonds with this particular cyber institution. I believe that the notion of Wikipedia as a space of open, democratic and participatory knowledge-sharing is exaggerated.

Despite this critical view, I found myself excited about this assignment, thinking of it as a challenge and a way to contribute to a major source of knowledge for people all around the globe. My initial anticipation was slightly strangled when John fired his first warning, informing the class that it might happen that our entries will be altered or even deleted while using the sandbox. And the enthusiasm decreased by another bit when doing the WP: RA search option for an entry that has not yet been made. It was deemed another step closer to impossibility. Worse was yet to come. I hit bottom rock when actually, actively participating in the giant web of wisdom, that is, when writing my entry.

Apart from the fact that hundreds of guidelines, rules, regulations, suggestions, hints, tips and what not predetermine the way in which one can use the medium; the more important question arose as to who is thus left out? Who are the people editing the entries, shaping the intellectual content, and the shape in which it is presented to become the end product that is presented to the user?

In 2007, Virgil Griffith, a PhD Student at Cal Tech, developed software called the Wikipedia Scanner, to detect the traces that Wikipedia editors leave when editing, adding or deleting an article.

Wikipedia Scanner offers users a searchable database that ties millions of anonymous Wikipedia edits to organizations where those edits apparently originated, by cross-referencing the edits with data on who owns the associated block of internet IP addresses

The result of Virgil’s action provided a database of 34.4 million edits, performed by 2.6 million organizations or individuals ranging from the CIA to Microsoft to Congressional offices,  that linked to the edits they or someone at their organization’s net address has made.

These early forms of questioning open source software point to an important question that asks, how knowledge is created, selected and processed? According to what criteria are guidelines and restrictions set and how do these rules shape the outcome? Even though Wikipedia does an extensive amount of work in answering those questions, they should remain at the back of our head when making use of it.

Comments are closed.