Research:Exploring editing dynamics in different language Wikipedias – Towards a substantive grounded theory
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Update: The final paper can be found here.
- Paško Bilić, PhD
- Tea Vidović
- Luka Bulian
This project will look at differences in values, norms and attitudes in creating, discussing and editing articles about controversial topics in different language Wikipedias. The empirical focus will be on the recently formed Republic of Kosovo in Southeast Europe. This is a highly contested topic, and has gained a significant amount of news coverage, both in regional and global media production. Since we are talking about the creation of a new and only partially internationally recognized state in Europe, this topic is also highly notable for inclusion on all Wikipedias. As such it has gained a significant amount of editors’ interest. Due to the previous integration of the Republic as an autonomous province within the borders of the Republic of Serbia, this topic is particularly contested on the Serbian Wikipedia.
Research will start by looking at the article and relevant user talk pages in articles about the topic on Serbian Wikipedia. Subsequently, it will expand towards the Croatian and English Wikipedia (or other theoretically relevant interaction contexts on Wikipedia) in order to focus on differences and similarities in editing practices in different language communities. Comparative language studies of Wikipedia are relatively rare and have been conducted mostly to look at the general editing dynamics and discussed within the context of retaining editors of the Wikipedia project. They mostly take a quantitative methodology approach and analyze large datasets. However, less attention has been given to specific and highly controversial topics to see what differences and similarities can be found across languages. In that regard, this research will use the qualitative methodology of grounded theory (Glaser, Strauss, 1967; Corbin, Strauss, 1990; Charmaz, 1998). We will code and categorize the documents and interviews in two cycles: (1) invivo, process and intitial coding; (2) axial and theoretical coding (Saldaña, 2009); in order to create a first-level, or substantive theory that might describe the processes and differences between different language versions. Three researchers will conduct coding simultaneously in order to ensure a higher level of interpretative flexibility, before going on to theory creation and elaboration.
We will be performing in-depth and semi-structured, online (e-mail, skype) interviews with editors who have significantly participated in the content production on the topics about Kosovo. We are highly interested in interviewing editors who have substantially contributed to these articles with high numbers of edits, as well as administrators who have substantially moderated discussions and acted in accordance with Wikipedia’s rules and policies in these topics. We are also particularly interested in members of the English WikiProject Kosovo who might give us valuable insight into the dynamics surrounding the editing processes about Kosovo. Editors who have edited across these languages are also highly welcome to participate in this research. Getting around 20 interviews is our target.
We would be happy to share our code and category matrices once we analyze all the relevant data. We plan to present the substantive theory at various conferences such as the upcoming iConference in Berlin in March 2014. We will ensure that either the conference proceeding or a resulting journal paper will be available to the broadest possible audience.
Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects Protection
There are no known risks associated with this type of qualitative study. Participation is completely voluntary and participants will be provided with an informed consent form. The research will focus on the activity of WP editors under their user names and no personal data will be required. If requested, user names will not be used in written reports. This research will be guided by the Association of internet researcher’s ethics guidelines throughout the research process.
Benefits for the Wikimedia community
This research might give better insight about contested, conflictive and contradictive situations and topics. In these situations the creation of a neutral point of view (NPOV) based on consensus is sometimes hard to reach. This research might help to upgrade rules and policies that are hard to adhere to in these cases. General openness and good faith can sometimes clash with specific conflictive topics. This research might help in better mediating these situations in the future.
• First-cycle coding and theoretical sampling of interview and discussion-page data (May-June 2013) Done
• Second-cycle coding of interview and discussion-page data (June-July 2013) Done
• Conducting interviews (June-July 2013) Done
• Theory building (July 2013) Done
• Written-report (August 2013) Done
Charmaz, Kathy (1998) ˝Grounded Theory: Objectivist and Constructivist Methods˝. In: Denzin, Norman K.; Lincoln, Yvonna S., (Eds) (1998), Strategies of Qualitative Inquiry. Thousand Oaks; London; New Delhi: SAGE Publications. pp 509-535
Corbin, Juliet; Strauss, Anselm (1990) ˝Grounded Theory Research: Procedures, Canons, and Evauative Criteria˝. Qualitative Sociology, 13(1):3-21.
Glaser, Barney G.; Strauss, Anselm L. (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Chicago: Aldine.
Saldaña, Johnny (2009) The Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers. London: SAGE Publications