Research

This research project will remain a proposal. I have become uncomfortable with the volunteer structure that would be required to accumulate a diversity of interactions necessary for the project. For a project that deals critically with similar content to more socially impactful ends, see http://art.plusfeminism.org/.

The aim of this research exercise is to examine the discord between the personal and lived experience of editors or users and Wikipedia’s aspiringly objective digital platform. Concerns with the devaluation of digital labor are inseparable from this point of interest.

New Wikipedia articles or edits are allowed on the site so long as they conform to ambiguous standards of notability or can be verified as fact. However, due to the ambiguity of the guidelines and diversity of submissions, standards of notability cannot be enforced to the same degree for every article on the online encyclopedia. Individual editors, whose biases produce fluctuations in these standards, determine the acceptability of new content. These editors are also largely unpaid. Their undervalued digital labor is what allows Wikipedia’s entries to remain a superficially free public good. In both the value attributed to objectively verifiable information and the devaluation of information labor practiced online, Wikipedia has become a hyperbolic site of disjuncture between the digital and the physical.

Researchers shall be asked to edit existing Wikipedia articles or create new ones of any type that may be of interest to them. When the content introduced by the researcher is edited again, removed, or approved, they should attempt to start a dialogue with the Wikipedia editor responsible for determining the validity of their addition, engaging them about their editing decisions and labor that they perform for Wikipedia. The articles selected for editing and the conversations with editors should be saved, copied, screencapped, etc. They will come to compose a record of these experiences that may aid in expanding a dialogue on the divide between digital value or objectivity as exemplified by Wikipedia and its usage of unpaid digital labor, and the non-digital experiences of editors and users. Will this disjuncture become more apparent when it is made the subject of this limited research experiment or will it be continually obscured by myths of a utopian and democratic internet that the discursive remove of an art project can do little to combat?

This project recognizes its own complicity in the labor inequities of the crowdsourcing model but aims to adopt a position of embedded criticality within these structures.