Submissions/Wikipedia is afraid of governments

From Wikimania 2011 • Haifa, Israel

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Title of the submission
Wikipedia is afraid of governments
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
presentation (short presentation with open floor)
Author of the submission
Deryck Chan
E-mail address or username (if username, please confirm email address in Special:Preferences)
User:Deryck Chan
Country of origin
Hong Kong
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Wikimedia Hong Kong
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (please use no less than 300 words to describe your proposal)

More precisely, this submission should be titled "English Wikipedia naming conventions are afraid of governments".

Wikimania is a platform for Wikimedians from around the world to debate issues regarding how to edit and use Wikimedia content. Last year's Wikimania is very aptly hosted in a city whose article on the English Wikipedia is subject to repeated edit wars: should it be named "Danzig" or "Gdańsk"?

"Gdańsk" won, as decided by a vote in 2005. However "Danzig" has made a very good case: most people from the English-speaking world will have first heard of the city as "Danzig" in history lessons, among other reasons. Edit wars about the name of this city continue until this day, usually ending in the 2005 decision being upheld.

This article, and many others on Wikipedia subject to similar disputes, brought attention to a central issue of Wikipedia. While Wikipedia operates a neutral point of view policy (NPOV), which demands that all articles present every significant view, NPOV becomes useless in cases where the name by which a subject is called presents an opinion bias, because each article can only have one name. This problem mainly surrounds articles of geographical locations that are known by two or more names in different languages, in particular disputed territories.

Wikipedia has a specific set of rules in the naming conventions which deal with these issues. According to the rules, the article title should represent the most common name in English language usage, or the most politically neutral name. However, a brief skim through a number of articles has revealed that very often, government bias played a significant part in deciding the names of articles. Government-endorsed names of the current regime of the geographical location often overrule names that are politically neutral and more widely accepted in the English language. Hence this presentation is titled "Wikipedia is afraid of governments".

From Gdańsk versus Danzig, Voivodeships of Poland versus provinces, to Côte d'Ivoire versus Ivory Coast, and Senkaku Islands versus Diaoyutai Islands versus Pinnacle Islands, this presentation should open up a discussion on what the actual common practice is regarding article names for places with multiple or disputed names, and whether the Chinese and Serbian Wikipedias have already provided an alternative solution to the problem of article name bias.

Track (People and Community/Knowledge and Collaboration/Infrastructure)
People and Community: conflict resolution
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Slides or further information (optional)
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  1. CT Cooper · talk 23:50, 26 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Having survived similar discussions over Philippine place names, I must attend this. :P --Sky Harbor 14:30, 27 April 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Vibhijain 13:51, 4 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  4. DrorK 16:31, 24 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  5. Hindustanilanguage 08:32, 30 May 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Yuyu 17:50, 10 June 2011 (UTC)[reply]
  7. Amir E. Aharoni