Grants:Programs/Wikimedia Research Fund/Understanding How Audiences Use Wikipedia to Navigate Contested Information Environments Online

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statusnot funded
Understanding How Audiences Use Wikipedia to Navigate Contested Information Environments Online
start and end datesJuly 2023 - July 2024
budget (USD)50,000 USD
fiscal year2022-23
applicant(s)• Benjamin Toff



Benjamin Toff

Affiliation or grant type

University of Minnesota


Benjamin Toff

Wikimedia username(s)

Project title

Understanding How Audiences Use Wikipedia to Navigate Contested Information Environments Online

Research proposal[edit]


Description of the proposed project, including aims and approach. Be sure to clearly state the problem, why it is important, why previous approaches (if any) have been insufficient, and your methods to address it.

This project builds on growing research considering the changing ways news audiences stay informed about current affairs in the contemporary, polarized, and fragmented digital environment. Rates of disconnection and disengagement with professionally produced news have declined recently in tandem with growing news avoidance. Likewise, trust in news has declined in markets around the world with large majorities expressing concern about misinformation, disinformation, and overall uncertainty about what sources they can depend on for reliable, factual information.

Previous studies of digital news audiences have found that many people refer to using search engines to cross-check information they encounter when uncertain about what to believe. Some specifically mention turning to resources like Wikipedia to help understand the news they encounter and decipher the commercial or political forces they often assume shapes the coverage they are seeing. Information from Wikipedia about news outlets has also become increasingly integrated into the browsing experience of platforms like Facebook and Google through their “About this content” and “About this result” features.

While a handful of studies have examined the way individuals evaluate information credibility on Wikimedia, limited prior research has considered its role with regards to regular news consumption more broadly. That is, how do typical news audiences make us of Wikimedia tools to navigate their information environments? How successfully are they able to make use of these tools? What do they pay attention to? And what kinds of information about news sources would they most benefit from as they strive to be informed citizens?

This project aims to examine these questions inductively through a 3-country qualitative study of news audiences in Brazil, India, and the US. A mix of 60 participants would be recruited by third-party research firms, which would screen for varying levels of media literacy and predispositions. Interviewees would then be asked to provide not only their perspectives on Wikimedia, but to describe how they use these services in real time as they complete specific information-seeking tasks concerning current affairs. On the basis of these data, a report will be drafted and disseminated with specific recommendations for how to better serve audiences in making effective use of these services.


  • Antonis Kalogeropoulos (advisor), University of Liverpool, United Kingdom


Approximate amount requested in USD.

50,000 USD

Budget Description

Briefly describe what you expect to spend money on (specific budgets and details are not necessary at this time).

The total program budget includes expenses for research firms to screen, recruit, and arrange virtual interview sessions ($15,000), financial compensation for study participants ($2,000), and transcription and translation costs ($9,000). Additional funding is allocated for hourly wages for a graduate research assistant ($2,500) along with a single course buyout for the lead researcher’s time ($15,000). A maximum of 15% is budgeted for institutional overhead ($6,500).


Address the impact and relevance to the Wikimedia projects, including the degree to which the research will address the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction and/or support the work of Wikimedia user groups, affiliates, and developer communities. If your work relates to knowledge gaps, please directly relate it to the knowledge gaps taxonomy.

This project is closely aligned with the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction through its audience-centric emphasis on improving the public’s ability to find and evaluate trustworthy sources of information. It does so by focusing on the intersection of content (what aspects of Wikimedia people pay attention to) and access (how well people are able to navigate these services). Moreover, the project is designed to look across multiple media markets and political contexts in order to assess potential disparities across global communities. The project is expected to be generative not only for further academic research but also for Wikimedians themselves as they develop more tailored tools that support the flow of free and verified information.


Plans for dissemination.

Major findings and recommendations from this project will be disseminated through a public-facing digital report and associated website. Additionally in order to engage with other relevant cutting edge scholarship on digital media, preliminary findings from the study will also be presented at the annual meeting of the International Communication Association in May 2024, and later through one or more peer-reviewed articles.

Past Contributions[edit]

Prior contributions to related academic and/or research projects and/or the Wikimedia and free culture communities. If you do not have prior experience, please explain your planned contributions.

Benjamin Toff is an internationally recognized, collaborative academic researcher with a background in political science, journalism, and communication. He has published extensively on digital news consumption, especially avoidance and distrust, in both peer-reviewed outlets including the Journal of Communication and Political Communication as well as more public-facing popular press outlets. He speaks regularly about his research to industry stakeholders, most recently in his capacity as lead researcher on a 3-year project focused on trust in news in Brazil, India, the UK, and the US based out of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford.

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