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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 »
You want to win a prize in a writing contest in social science in which contributions written like an academic paper will not be accepted? Pay attention to the following call for articles: The International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP) invites young scholars to submit texts on Sustainable Development Goals and their human dimension, be it political, technological, economic, or social.
Prizes are US$ 500, US$ 200, and US$ 100 and the three winning pieces will be published in the in-house magazine Dimensions.
The deadline for submissions has been extended to May 15, 2013.
Another witty animation by the RSA, this time featuring everyone’s favourite misanthrope. Slavoj Žižek’s provocative thesis is that attempts to weave ethics into consumption – for instance with the Fairtrade label – merely serve to make the inbuilt injustices more durable: “The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society on such a basis that poverty will be impossible, and the altruistic virtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim.”
We can buy exploitative and corporate items, and the anti-exploitative anti-corporate antidote is already included in the product, like ethical coffee at Starbucks. We can increase our wealth while pursuing sustainability or equity, like SRI. We can lend money for profit and promote virtues like entrepreneurship or “financial inclusion”, as in microfinance.