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The State of Wikimedia Scholarship: 2008-2009

From Wikimania

The State of Wikimedia Scholarship: 2008-2009

Presenter Benjamin Mako Hill (Masschusetts Institute of Technology)
Themes AcademicCommunities
About the presenter
Benjamin Mako Hill is a researcher, activist, and consultant working on issues of technology, intellectual property, and society. He is currently a researcher and PhD Candidate at the MIT Sloan School of Management and a Research Fellow at the MIT Center for Future Civic Media. He has been an leader, developer, and contributor to the Free and Open Source Software community for more than a decade as part of the Debian and Ubuntu projects. He is the author of several best-selling technical books, and a member of the Free Software Foundation board of directors. He is an advisor to the Wikimedia Foundation and the One Laptop per Child project. Hill has a Masters degree from the MIT Media Lab.

Talk Notes: Proceedings:305/Notes

This talk will offer a quick tour of scholarship and academic research over the last year that has focused on Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects. It will both give a birds-eye-view of Wikimedia research as a whole and go into depth on a dozen or so of the most important findings. The goal is to explain both what our community is teaching others and what Wikimedia editors, the Wikimedia Foundation, and our community as a whole, might be able to learn about ourselves. While wonderful research will be presented as part of the academic track, this talk will focus on the other important results that will not be.

A quick search of a multi-disciplinary scholarly database shows nearly 300 scholarly publications (i.e., articles, books, thesis, etc.) in the last year alone that contain the term "Wikipedia" in their title. Journals and conferences in the social sciences, computational sciences, humanities, engineering, and a variety of other fields have published scholarly works that examine Wikipedia, use data mined from Wikipedia, and try to help us make sense of Wikimedia projects, their people, processes, and artifacts.

A half dozen people have now graduated with PhDs earned by studying Wikipedia. There are even conferences --- WikiSym most notable among them --- that focus on wikis and who are heavily biased toward publishing work based on Wikipedia. Even Wikimania now has an academic track where scholars are presenting their own Wikimedia and Wikipedia research. What does all this work mean for Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects? How can our community learn from academic research into our projects? Does any of this work have anything to teach us about how to run our projects? What does all that academic jargon mean in terms that any editor could understand?

This talk will try to point toward answers to these questions with a quick tour --- a literature review in the scholarly parlance --- of the last year's academic landscape around Wikimedia and its projects geared at non-academic editors and readers. It will try to categorize, distill, and describe, from a birds eye view, the academic landscape as it is shaping up around our project. It will also quickly highlight a dozen or so of the most important articles published in the last year on Wikipedia, summarize their results, and describe what these findings might mean for Wikipedia, its editors, and processes.

The talk will be given by a social scientist and academic studying Wikipedia and free culture and free software communities (e.g., he serves on the program committee for WikiSym) who is also a longtime Wikipedia editor and member of the Wikimedia advisory board. He will work to translate between his two communities.

Wikimedia and its projects are and will remain, for some time, under academia's magnifying glass. This talk will give Wikimedians a view from the other side and help point at where we might go with some of the insight we gain in the process.

Language English