[ox-en] Impressions from CPOV Wikipedia in Amsterdam
- From: Stefan Merten <smerten oekonux.de>
- Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2010 21:22:37 +0200
Last weekend there was another conference in Amsterdam. It was called
CPOV Wikipedia (Critical Point of View). Again the following are some
impressions from the conference. I'd also like to thank Geert for
organizing this conference.
It was a medium conference with I guess 100-120 attenders. Though the
presentation style of some talks was quite improvable over all the
conference was very interesting.
The general topic of the conference was about the governance in
Wikipedia - insofar it was a hot conference for the topics we are
discussing here. I had hoped for a talk explaining all the governance
facilities which are in place in Wikipedia - like mediators and
facilitators but unfortunately there were no such talk. I'd love to
have a good overview here.
Jeanette Hofmann gave an interesting talk where she made the often
seen phenomenon of high expectations in the beginning of a project and
deep frustration later own. She asked the very necessary question on
how to conceptualize this properly. Well, my guess would be to start
with realistic expectations in the first place. Which fits well with
Jeanette's observation that when starting a project people are often
*so* a-historical in the sense that they always think that they are
the first who tried it that way. A point I also made a couple of times
already. Jeanette also quoted Boaventura de Sousa Santos a lot. This
person made a lot of useful contributions around this topic. Probably
worthwhile checking out.
Another interesting point Jeanette made was about the tension of
regulation and emancipation. Jeanette said that the goal or regulation
is order while the goal of emancipation is good order. Whenever the
order from regulation becomes bad emancipation steps in. Though I'd
not use these terms I think this describes the dynamic of social
systems quite well.
A couple of the most interesting talks were about empirical studies
about Wikipedia. One talk by Esther Weltevreden and Erik Borra studied
controversies on the article about climate change (IIRC). It was very
interesting to learn about how the controversies were handled in this
case. One of their most interesting statements was that the new mode
of knowledge production moves from truth and facts to the process of
The talk of Andrew Famiglietti also was focused on disputes and their
resolution in Wikipedia.
One of the highlights was the talk by Felipe Ortega. He did an
extensive statistical research on Wikipedia. He researched not only
the English Wikipedia - which is usually researched - but the
Wikipedias in the top ten languages. It was very interesting to see
similarities and differences. For instance for all Wikipedias the
growth is flattening over the years. Felipe stressed that these
numbers can be and have been interpreted in various ways. One say that
Wikipedia stalled, other say that Wikipedia matured. Together with
Felipe I think the latter is the better interpretation - there is
similar a limit to what can be represented usefully in an encylopedia.
Another figure Felipe presented is that though everyone *can* edit in
practice 5% of the registered users do 90% of the edits. However, it
was not yet clear of which quality these edits are - may be a lot
spelling correction or some such is part of these 90%.
Stuart Geiger gave also an interesting talk from a study about the
bots which are active in Wikipedia. He illustrated an example where a
bot adds signatures in Talk pages if people don't do it themselves.
One of Stuart's statements was that order is increasingly produced
through technical means. It is indeed one of the governance questions
arising from "Code is Law".
As someone who "in the scene" for years now there was Florian Cramer.
As he said himself Florian feels himself to be in the deep frustration
phase Jeanette talked about. He outlined a couple of things peer
production should have been / become but which didn't get reality. For
instance the re-using of material is by far not as massive as
expected. He also pointed out that Jim Wales, the founder of
Wikipedia, has an extreme neo-liberal background (Ayn Rand and
Friedrich van Hayek). This reminds me of the point I'm having in mind
for quite some years now to understand the synthesis aspect of peer
production better. One of his deep concerns is that peer production
works only on a very generic level like Free Software and Wikipedia
where everyone can agree easily. In fact an interesting thought which
definitely needs to be explored further - beginning with the question
what he means exactly.
An interesting point in one of the discussions was that in the
beginning of Wikipedia the main concern was about getting enough
volunteer labor while meanwhile the main concern is to retain the
available volunteer labor.
A general critique I had for some speakers was the "they-should"-style
they seemed to be so proud of - while at the same time taking all the
benefits of Wikipedia like massive transparency of the project simply
as granted. Meanwhile I'm a bit tired of this style probably.
The more I was pleased by the statement from Joseph Reagle that people
should make productive contributions. I think this is yet another
important point where the Left differs from peer production. In peer
production "I do" is much more welcome and useful than "they should".
May be that's a point which needs further analysis anyway. A short
thought goes in the direction that this "they should"-style is
probably well for criticizing the state or other institutions which
have some (alienated?) power. But Wikipedia? Well, as I said: An
interesting point to explore further if we think about a peer
production based society.
Again the social aspect of the conference was very nice. I met a
couple of people I just saw in Hull and a couple of other old friends.
I also get to know a few new people.
Again I made some notes about possible speakers for a possible 5th