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About two and half years ago, I wrote a blog post on shifting baseline effects in assessing copyright regulation. My main argument was that a large proportion of researchers, practitioners and regulators cannot even envision how the much less restrictive intellectual property regimes of the past have worked because what we perceive to be a “natural level” of protection has changed.
Today, XKCD provides a great illustration of the concept of shifting baselines more generally by commenting on the recent debates on cold weather in spite of global warming:
In a very recent study on “Paid vs. Volunteer Work in Open Source” (PDF), Dirk Riehle and others found that “about 50% of all open source software development has been paid work for many years now and that many small projects are fully paid for by companies.” However, in openly licensed projects outside of the software realm, the co-existance of paid and volunteer contributors is often considered problematic. For example, while paid coding is uncontested and vital for open source software, paid editing in Wikipedia is often seen as a danger to both the project’s neutral point of view and the motivation of unpaid contributors.
How serious the effects of Wikipedian’s skepticism towards paid editing can be was evidenced last week, when the Wikimedia Foundation dismissed Sarah Stierch, one of its most prominent employees, because of paid editing. The current issue of Wikipedia’s community newspaper Signpost is entirely devoted to
the dismissal of Sarah Stierch, whose paid-for editing activities were first revealed in a blog post. This included a screenshot of Stierch’s profile on oDesk, a global clearinghouse for the hiring and management of remote workers. The profile showed that she had been paid US$300 to author a Wikipedia page for an “individual”, along with two billed hours for a “Wikipedia Writer Editor” job that was “in progress”.
On a more general level, paid editing had already been an issue in the German Wikipedia community. Wikimedia Germany, the local Wikimedia chapter organization, had even funded a project on “Grenzen der Bezahlung” (literally: “Limits of Paying”) to discuss and evaluate issues around paid editing. The project was run by Dirk Franke, a long-standing member of the German editing community, who very recently has taken up a position with Wikimedia Germany (unrelated to paid editing). The following interview was conducted in German and Dirk Franke emphasized that he was speaking only for himself, not his new employer.
You have been working on the limits of paid editing in Wikipedia in a project funded by the Wikimedia Foundation. What was your main question?
Dirk Franke: Actually, the project was funded by the German Wikimedia association, which is legally independent from the focal Wikimedia Foundation. In addition, I have not conducted the project for Wikimedia but rather in the course of a grant program, where members of the community could suggest different projects; I always understood it that way that I was conducting the project for the Wikipedia community and not so much for the chapter association.
The question was more a practical one. Paid editing is both a forseeable problem and a forseeable development. Thus, the question was, how can I encourage the community to think about the issue even before the problem is immediately around the corner and it is in fact to late?
About three months ago, I blogged about potential explanations for Wikipedia’s diversity problems (see “‘Middle-aged White Guys’“). Last weekend, a truly bordercrossing crowd gathered in Berlin to discuss strategies for addressing these problems at the first Wikimedia Diversity Conference. Due to other commitments I was not able to take part the whole time but I have enjoyed most of the sessions I was able to attend.
Since there is extensive documentation on most of the sessions available online, I will only highlight some of my personal insights:
- In her talk on “Diversifying India through outreach among women“, Netha Hussain emphasized the importance of Wikipedia Zero to increase participation in countries, where mere Internet access is not self-evident. Wikipedia Zero enables mobile access, free of data charges, to Wikipedia in developing countries via cooperations with local internet service providers. While some criticize the initiative because of it being a violation of net neutrality principles (see, for example, this mailing-list discussion), it really seems to be a great opportunity to lower access barriers in poorer countries.
As we have discussed repeatedly on this blog (e.g. “Middle-aged White Guys“), one of the most puzzling issues in analyzing Wikipedia is its continuous decline in active editors since 2007, shortly after a period of exponential growth:
Aaron Halfaker, together with R. Stuart Geiger, Jonathan Morgan and John Riedl, has now published results of their research efforts to understand the reasons behind this editor decline in American Behavioral Scientist under the title “The Rise and Decline of an Open Collaboration Community: How Wikipedia’s reaction to sudden popularity is causing its decline” (see Preprint PDF).
One of Halfaker et al.’s core findings is that, while the proportion of desirable newcomers entering Wikipedia has not changed since 2006, the proportion of them being reverted in their first session has increased (“good_ faith & golden” refers to sub-groups of desirable newcomers): Read the rest of this entry »
What does interculturalism mean and imply – in theory, in practice, and politically? The 7th Global Conference of the non-profit network Inter-Disciplinary.Net will target this question with a focus on identity, its construction and reconstruction. Readers of this blog may be particularly interested in themes related to globalization, governance implications of border-crossing identities, and/or struggles over resources.
“The Baby trade is likely to continue to grow, partly it is no longer simply a response to wars and humanitarian crises. For better or worse, it now behaves much like a commodities market, with demand informing supply; and neither demand nor supply is likely to subside.” - Ethan Kapstein 2003
Since Madonna and Angelina Jolie famously adopted children from Africa, the international adoption system is under fire. The suspicion is that the system may be driven by market forces and profit seeking, and that regulations and international conventions just camouflage (illegal) market practices and facilitate the trafficking of children. Clearly, international adoptions are serious normative and political issues for the “sending” countries because children are normally understood as “sacred” and are loaded “with sentimental or religious meaning” (Zelizer 1985: 11). They should be protected, educated and loved.
The international dispersion of these ideas is reflected in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which has been signed by 193 countries until now, who
proclaimed that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance … [children] should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding … in particular in the spirit of peace, dignity, tolerance, freedom, equality and solidarity.
The idea of child protection clearly reserves them “a separate noncommercial place, extra-commercium” (Zelizer, ibid.). However, although it is prohibited, child trafficking is still a worldwide phenomenon. Usually it takes place between “Third World” countries and the industrialized western world, and it appears in different forms. Especially the practice of “child laundering” has gained high attention. Read the rest of this entry »
In in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, USA, Susquehanna University hosts the Northeast Modern Language Association’s 45th annual convention. The panel on Cinema and Migration in the cluster about Cultural Studies and Film caught my interest as it “aims to explore cinema across borders and in comparative perspective” (cfp).
Maria Catrickes welcomes applications for presentations by September 30, 2013. It is a tempting opportunity to cross disciplinary borders – if anyone would notice a social scientist slipping in?
The date of the event is April 3-6, 2014.
„Welcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.“ This inviting welcome message is placed right on top of the English Wikipedia’s main page. Similarly, the vision of the Wikimedia Foundation, the formal non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, reads as follows: „Imagine a World in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.“
Both these lines represent the utopia of digital inclusiveness. ‘Anyone’ should have the possibility to contribute to Wikipedia’s quest for collecting the world’s knowledge. ‘Every single human being’ shall take part in this digital knowledge exchange. In Wikipedia’s early years, critics questioned whether this radical openness allowed for a high-quality encyclopedia to emerge. The main concern was how quality and neutrality of the Wikipedia could be preserved when anyone can change, delete or amend anything at any time (in 2005, for example, the Guardian asked “Can you trust Wikipedia?“).
Responding to these questions, Jim Giles compared in a Nature article (2005) Wikipedia and the renowned Encyclopedia Britannica and found a similar number of errors in both encyclopedias; more recent studies confirm these results with different methodologies (see, for example, Rodrigues 2013). Furthermore, Wikipedia’s quality management became much more sophisticated over the years, for example by introducing “sighted versions” checked by experienced Wikipedians. And even though there are still regularly reports on manipulated or wrong articles in Wikipedia, the end of print encyclopedias nevertheless made it the undisputed winner in the battle of encyclopedias. Today it is hardly possible to make an online search without finding a Wikipedia reference prominently placed in the results list. Wikipedia has effectively become the central directory of world’s knowledge. Read the rest of this entry »
The open-access, peer-reviewed Journal of the Sociology and Theory of Religion asks for contributions for the first issue in 2014. The call aims at papers dealing with religion, environment, diversity and/or justice based on comparative, empirical research.
The papers can be submitted until October 1, 2013, to the special editor Michael Agliardo, SJ, Ph.D. The journal is published in English, Spanish and Chinese.
In about two weeks I will attend the 63rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association to present a paper on the organizational identity of the hacker collective “Anonymous” (see also “Anonymous’ Boundaries: Expelling by Exposing“), which I have written together with Dennis Schoeneborn. The key the empirical puzzle in this case is how the organizational identity of Anonymous is constructed given the fact that individual membership is largely invisible.
One of our findings is that Anonymous largely relies on the credibility of communication channels as a functional equivalent and substitute to member-based identity formation. Several Twitter accounts, Facebook pages or Tumblr blogs are controlled by members of Anonymous (“Anons”). Some of these accounts such as the YourAnonNews with over 1.1 million followers on Twitter or the OffiziellAnonymous Facebook page with over 1.2 million fans are able to reach large audiences.
The credibility of these communication channels depends on their respective communication history. Those accounts that have accurately announced – if not initiated – Anonymous activities gain credibility and thus the power to speak more or less on behalf of Anonymous.
The centrality of credible communication channels for the identity of Anonymous has recently been underscored by the first Anonymous crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. The goal of the initiative: fund a new home for the communication channel YourAnonNews (YAN), which is currently hosted at Tumblr: Read the rest of this entry »