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Research:Slow Editing Towards Equity

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
11:23, 9 September 2022 (UTC)
Dr. Claudio Bueno Celis
Dr. Jakko Kemper
Ouejdane Sabbah M.A
Duration:  2022-June – 2024-July

This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.

Researching Wikipedian policy development and knowledge equity. This project aims to identify the skills needed by Wikipedians to move equity initiatives through the policy development process. The grantees will evaluate the paths of equity initiatives through the policy development process in five Wikipedia language editions (Arabic, Dutch, English, French, and Spanish). We will collect and analyze both successful and failed proposals that sought to increase knowledge equity. This work has the potential to increase understanding of Wikipedia’s policy landscape and how existing practices influence the likelihood of a proposal’s success. The project will produce both academic publications as well as a field guide to policy change.

Logo of the Slow Editing Towards Equity— A Wikipedia Policy Research project
Logo for the Slow Editing Towards Equity Wikipedia Policy Research project

Goals & Intended Impacts


The intended goal of this research is to provide a set of best practices, skills, and role descriptions that Wikipedians can mobilize in order to enact policy changes. This will be achieved by using mixed methods (content analysis, qualitative textual analysis, and interface analysis) as part of two research strategies.

  • Research strategy 1: Analyze the moments when Wikipedians successfully and unsuccessfully garnered the broader acceptance of the community; such as by moving an essay or project page into a guideline or official policy within different language editions.
  • Research strategy 2: Collect and analyze both successful and failed policy proposals that were designed to increase knowledge equity.

The major impact of the work will be in increasing the knowledge of how Wikipedia’s policy environment is developed and how these practices have shaped the success and failure of equity-based policy proposals. In doing so, policy reform initiatives will benefit by learning from this history and can plan their activities and mentorship accordingly. Furthermore, this research will be applicable to multiple languages of Wikipedia and therefore adds to the capacity of the re- search to address the diverse needs of different Wikipedian communities. As such, it is expected that policy workshops and taskforces will use this information to train Wikipedians and new users on how to develop and maintain equitably policies.

Research Questions

  • RQ1. What kinds of skills and roles have Wikipedians used to move a rule from an initial project page (or essay) to established policy?
  • RQ2. What are the markers of successful policy proposals and the barriers for unsuccessful policy proposals dedicated to increasing knowledge equity?



Over the past decade, there has been a significant and concerted effort to address both Wikipedia’s knowledge equity and the relative stagnation in increasing and retaining editors. This has manifested in article creation initiatives like Art+Feminism and Whose Knowledge?. However, knowledge equity is not just a question of content — it is also about process. As Amanda Menking and Jon Rosenberg argued,[1] Wikipedia’s policy environment reinforces problematic norms about knowledge processes. Similar sentiments have been levelled against specific guidelines and policies dealing with reliable sources,[2] and notability.[3][4] As such there is a need to reconsider the foundational assumptions about knowledge that are being manifested in these community-defining documents. Given this situation, the research project proposes that in order for the 2030 Wikimedia Strategic Direction[5] on knowledge equity to succeed, these concerns about Wikipedia’s policies must be addressed.

To understand the methods chosen for this research, it is necessary to first understand how the research object will be theorized. In this particular instance, policies and policy-making will be conceptualized according to legal scholar Cornelia Vismann’s position that legal media exist as “cultural techniques”.[6][7] This means that the “making” of policy is not simply the translation of a wiki-based discussion into a document. Instead, policy development will be understood as the combination of actions and tools that connect logics (how it is argued into being on the talk page), inscription and storage (the changing composition of the policy page), and its circulation (practices of hyperlinking to policy documents). This theoretical approach falls in line with previous research about Wikipedian governance that is sensitive to the entwined relationship between social practices and technical operations.[8][9] Consequently, this socio-technical approach requires a unique set of mixed methods. In particular, one that combines the quantitative benefits of content analysis, the interpretative value of textual analysis, and the media-sensitivity of interface analysis, methods that have been used in other research projects.[10][11][12] The synthesis of these methods will provide the means for answering the following research questions.



Content analysis, textual analysis, and interface analysis will be used to analyze Wikipedia's policy environment.

Publications & Conferences

  • From Idea to Consensus: A Cross-Linguistic Study of Wikipedian Policy Development. Abstract accepted for ICA 2024. Australia.



Project Schedule

Project organization Research Strategy 1: Policy development skills and roles Research Strategy 2: Assessment of knowledge equity policy proposals Project Communications
July 2022 Make arrangements with fiscal sponsor
August 2022 Hire Post-doctoral researchers and assistant researcher
September 2022 Team Briefing Data Collection: English

- Develop social media assets for communications
October 2022 Analysis: English
November 2022 Team Meeting: Data Collection Datasprint Analysis: English
Data Collection: Arabic, Dutch, French, Spanish
Data Collection: English
December 2022 Team Meeting: Coding Scheme calibration Analysis: Spanish Analysis: English
Data Collection: Spanish
- [Pushed from October] Finalize social media assets for communications
- Ongoing community awareness of the project via noticeboards and social media begins
January 2023 Team Meeting Analysis: Arabic, Dutch, French, Spanish Analysis: English, Spanish
Data Collection: Arabic, Dutch, French
February 2023 Analysis: Arabic, Dutch, French Analysis: Arabic, Dutch, French
March 2023 Team Meeting Report writing: All languages Analysis: Arabic, Dutch, French
April 2023
May 2023 Team Meeting - International Communication Association Annual Conference
- Submit research to academic journals
- Produce public-facing report and guideline for policy reform activities
June 2023 Team Debriefing - End of project communications of final report

Monthly Update

April 2024
  • Manuscript for first paper submitted to the journal New Media & Society.
  • Research team meetings to discuss draft 2.
March 2024
  • Second Draft of first paper based on Research Strategy 1 complete.
  • Research team meetings to discuss draft 1.
  • Team revisions of paper completed.
  • Abstract accepted to ICA pre-conference.
February 2024
  • First Draft of first paper based on Research Strategy 1 complete.
  • Research team meetings to discuss draft 1.
  • Abstract submitted to ICA pre-conference.
January 2024
  • Abstract accepted the annual International Communication Association conference.
  • Began drafting first paper based on Research Strategy 1.
November 2023
  • Submitted abstract based on Research Strategy 1 to the annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference.
May 2023
April 2023
  • Abstract accepted and presentation prepared for Wiki Workshop 2023.
  • Began initial analysis of data.
March 2023
  • Finalized the research project's logo.
  • Research team meeting concerning the status of Research Strategy 1.
  • Finished coding of the policy talk pages.
February 2023
  • Second pass of the Research Strategy 1 coding scheme for talk pages through cross-coding.
January 2023
  • Tagging of 3 policies from each of the five languages was completed.
  • First pass of coding scheme for the talk pages analyzed under Research Strategy 1.
December 2022
  • Second pass of the Research Strategy 1 coding scheme of history pages through cross-coding.
  • Tagging of 3 policies from each of the five languages being studied begun.
November 2022
  • Datasprint for data collection for the Arabic, English, Dutch, French, and Spanish versions. Each researcher began a pilot analysis of three policies relevant to the research.
  • First pass of the Research Strategy 1 coding scheme completed.
  • Data collection for Research Strategy 2 (English) begun.
October 2022
  • Meeting with fiscal sponsor to coordinate budget
  • Submitted Abstract for the International Communication Association Annual Conference (Rejected, January 2023)
September 2022
  • Two post-doctoral researchers and one research assistant formally hired
  • First meeting with research team
  • Data collection started for Research Strategy 1 (English)
  • Development of social media assets for research communications
July-August 2022
  • Administrative meetings with fiscal sponsor (University of Amsterdam) and WMF to process funding.
June 2022
  • Slow editing towards equity research project proposal accepted.

See Also



  1. Menking, Amanda; Rosenberg, Jon (2020). "WP: NOT, WP: NPOV, and Other Stories Wikipedia Tells Us: A Feminist Critique of Wikipedia’s Epistemology.". Science, Technology, & Human Values: 1–25. 
  2. Berson, Amber; Sengul-Jones, Monika; Tamani, Melissa (2013). "Unreliable Guidelines: Reliable Sources and Marginalized Communities in French, English, and Spanish Wikipedias". Art+Feminism. Retrieved 2022-09-26. 
  3. Gauthier, Maude; Sawchuk, Kim (2017). "Not notable enough: feminism and expertise in Wikipedia". Communication and critical/cultural studies (14): 385––402. 
  4. Tripodi, Francesca (2021). "Ms. Categorized: Gender, notability, and inequality on Wikipedia". New Media & Society: 1–21. 
  5. Maher, Katherine (2017-08-10). "Wikimedia 2030: A draft strategic direction for our movement". Diff.Wikimedia. Retrieved 2022-09-26. 
  6. Vismann, Cornelia (2008). Files: Law and media technology. Stanford University Press. 
  7. Vismann, Cornelia (2013). "Cultural Techniques and Sovereignty". Theory, Culture & Society (30): 83–93. 
  8. Geiger, Stuart (2017). "Beyond opening up the black box: Investigating the role of algorithmic systems in Wikipedian organizational culture.". Big Data & Society: 1–14. 
  9. Ford, Heather; Wajcman, Judy (2017). "`Anyone can edit’, not everyone does: Wikipedia’s infrastructure and the gender gap". Social Studies of Science: 1–17. 
  10. Jankowski, Steve (2022). "Making Consensus Sensible: The Transition of a Democratic Ideal into Wikipedia’s Interface". Journal of Peer Production (15). Retrieved September 26, 2022. 
  11. Jankowski, Steve. "The Trouble with Knowing: Wikipedian consensus and the political design of encyclopedic media". York University. Retrieved September 26, 2022. 
  12. Jankowski, Steve (2015). "No consensus on consensus: A paradox within Wikipedian governance and collective action". In Torres, C.; Mateus, S. From Multitude to Crowds- Collective Action and the Media. Peter Lang. pp. 177–196.