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Submissions/The Wikipedian Condition

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

This is an open submission for Wikimania 2011.

Review no.


Title of the submission
The Wikipedian Condition: Analyzing the System of Social Relations on Wikipedia Through Political Lenses
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Josh Lim
E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences)
Sky Harbor / jamesjoshualimyahoo.com
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Wikimedia Philippines (the organization however has no involvement with this presentation)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)
This presentation seeks to explain using political theories the existing state of social relations that currently exist on Wikipedia, how this state of social relations came about, and what may be done to rectify this with the notion of Wikipedia being, first and foremost, a community of editors. It seeks to add a new dimension to the characterization of Wikipedia's editing community, hopefully answering questions such as "Why are older users leaving Wikipedia?", "Why are new users today afraid of being bold?" and "Is Wikipedia elitist?", questions which have been raised in various Wikipedia fora over the years, through the use of the following political concepts (not all the concepts which will be used are listed here):
  • Panopticism as conceptualized by Michel Foucault in Discipline and Punish. Since Wikipedians' actions are constantly checked through the ability to see what other editors are doing in real time, it begs the question: how did this come about, and how does it affect Wikipedian community dynamics?
  • Hannah Arendt's conceptualization of labor in The Human Condition and atomization in The Origins of Totalitarianism. Arendt argues that labor can only be realized in a social medium, which in this case is Wikipedia. But at the same time, as Wikipedia grows, decentralization became a necessity. Are Wikipedians therefore self-atomizing, isolating themselves from the rest of the community?
  • The state of war in Multitude by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri. Wikipedians, while perhaps showing a greater tolerance for collaboration and confrontation, are still human beings. What kind of environment do Wikipedians see themselves being in, and how does this, for example, affect the reception newer Wikipedians get in comparison to how older Wikipedians were welcomed when the project was much younger? Has Wikipedia become more collaborative as it matured, or not?
Overall, this presentation aims to provide additional context to how Wikipedia's editing community functions both as a whole and as individual "sovereign" (autonomous) units, which (as far as I know) has not yet been explained using political theory as a means of analysis. Tying this in with historical accounts of the development of Wikipedia, and using a bit of personal experience as a long-time Wikipedia editor, this presentation hopes to encourage people to think not only about what we have done right, but also what we may have done wrongly, and how we can proceed as the project matures.
Trivia: This presentation is named after the book The Human Condition by Hannah Arendt, and is a paper that I submitted for a political science class at the Ateneo de Manila University.
Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
People and Community
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
It depends. I have applied for a scholarship, though should my application and this submission be rejected, then I must regret not attending.
Slides or further information (optional)
None yet, but I hope to have something up soon. If you follow my Facebook, there are a few Wall posts discussing the paper and presentation.

Interested attendees

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  1. CT Cooper · talk 12:43, 19 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Sadads 10:29, 31 March 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Bejinhan 10:51, 1 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  4. Tobias 18:23, 6 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Millosh 14:18, 20 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  6. JanPaul123 21:58, 26 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Erik Zachte 13:50, 29 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  8. Vibhijain 13:45, 4 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]