'Move Along Now, Nothing to See Here': The Private Discussion Spheres of Wikipedia

9 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2010

See all articles by Ayelet Oz

Ayelet Oz

Public Defender's Office

Date Written: August 29, 2009


The enforcement mechanisms on Wikipedia enact an internal conflict between Wikipedia’s open, inclusive ethos and its organizational reliance on power, hierarchy and punishment. Wikipedia resolves the conflict by burying the punitive practices behind a series of mechanisms that make them less visible to newer users. The characteristics of the MediaWiki software and different use patterns of different Wikipedia contributors join to form the mechanisms that mediate the conflict between the aspirational and organizational goals. The split between main pages and talk pages, the fragmentation of a single discussion to multiple pages, and the use of notice boards, create private spaces for administrators and advanced users to act away from the eyes of new users. While these elitist consequences obviously go against the open ethos of Wikipedia, they give valuable tools in the hands of administrators keeping Wikipedia interruption-free. Therefore, these mechanisms present an important challenge to the community - one that requires it to rethink both Wikipedia’s technical infrastructure and its normative vision.

Keywords: Acoustic Separation, Wikipedia, Technical Affordances, Social Sciences, Patterns of Use, Administrators, Newbies, New Users, Talk Pages, Noticeboards, Arbitration Committee, System Design, Social Effects of Technical Infrastructure, Code is Law, Environment Design

Suggested Citation

Oz, Ayelet, 'Move Along Now, Nothing to See Here': The Private Discussion Spheres of Wikipedia (August 29, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1726450 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1726450

Ayelet Oz (Contact Author)

Public Defender's Office ( email )

Henrietta Szold 4.
Tel Aviv, 02471

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