[iDC] "Wikipedia Art"

Michael Bauwens michelsub2003 at yahoo.com
Wed Feb 18 09:36:22 UTC 2009

Hi Stephen,

that power struggle did already take place, i.e. the civil war between the abundance-orientated inclusionists, and the scarcity-choosing deletionists.

Scarcity forces created artificial scarcity, therefore an allocation problem, and a power structure, but one that is self-selected and doesn't allow forking,

self-aggregation only works in an context of abundance, but if you create scarcities needing decision, and this is done entirely without formal democratic rules, that is really a recipe for the tyranny of structurelessness, which is in full view in Wikipedia, which now offers a full view of the dark side of peer governance ..

for background, see:

main article: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/is-something-fundamentally-wrong-with-wikipedia-governance-processes/2008/01/07 (text below)


- http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/conflict-arbitration-at-the-wikipedia/2009/02/10

- http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/banning-the-wikipedia-bans-as-a-governance-tool/2008/11/21

- http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/is-it-time-to-go-beyond-wikipedia/2008/11/11

- http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/update-on-the-bagley-wikipedia-controversy/2008/10/26


The Wikipedia is often hailed as a prime
example of peer production and peer governance, an example of how a
community can self-govern very complex processes. Including by me.
But it is also increasingly showing the dark side and pitfalls of purely informal approaches, especially when they scale.
Wikipedia is particularly vulnerable because its work is not done in
teams, but by individuals with rather weak links. At the same time it
is also a very complex project, with consolidating social norms and
rules, and with an elite that knows them, vs. many occasional page
writers who are ignorant of them. When that system then instaures a
scarcity rule, articles have to be ‘notable” or they can be deleted.
It creates a serious imbalance.
While the Wikipedia remains a remarkable achievement, and escapes
any easy characterization of its qualities because of its sheer
vastness, there must indeed be hundreds of thousands of volunteers
doing good work on articles, it has also created a power structure, but
it is largely invisible, opaque, and therefore particularly vulnerable
to the well-known tyranny of structurelessness. 
Consider the orginal thoughts of Jo Freeman:
“Contrary to what we would like to believe, there is no such
thing as a ’structureless’ group. Any group of people of whatever
nature coming together for any length of time, for any purpose, will
inevitably structure itself in some fashion. The structure may be
flexible, it may vary over time, it may evenly or unevenly distribute
tasks, power and resources over the members of the group. But it will
be formed regardless of the abilities, personalities and intentions of
the people involved. The very fact that we are individuals with
different talents, predispositions and backgrounds makes this
inevitable. Only if we refused to relate or interact on any basis
whatsoever could we approximate ’structurelessness’ and that is not the
nature of a human group.
Consider also this warning:
Every group of people with an unusual goal - good, bad, or silly
- will trend toward the cult attractor unless they make a constant
effort to resist it. You can keep your house cooler than the outdoors,
but you have to run the air conditioner constantly, and as soon as you
turn off the electricity - give up the fight against entropy - things
will go back to “normal”.
In the same sense that every thermal differential wants to
equalize itself, and every computer program wants to become a
collection of ad-hoc patches, every Cause wants to be a cult. It’s a
high-entropy state into which the system trends, an attractor in human
Cultishness is quantitative, not qualitative.  The question is not “Cultish, yes or no?” but “How much cultishness and where?” 
The Wikicult website asserts that this stage has already been reached:
With the systems, policies, procedures, committees, councils,
processes and appointed authorities that run Wikipedia, a lot of
intrinsic power goes around. While most serious contributors devotedly
continue to contribute to the implied idealism, there are those with
the communication and political skill to place themselves in the right
place at the right time and establish even more apparent power. Out of
these, a cabal inevitably forms; the rest, as they say, is history.
Specialized sites have sprung up, such as the Wikipedia Review, monitoring power abuse in general, or in particular cases
The Wikipedia Review offers an interesting summary of the various criticisms that have been leveled agains the Wikipedia,
which I’m reproducing here below, but I’m adding links that document
these processes as well. Spend some time on reading the allegations, their documentation, and make up your own mind.
My conclusion though is that major reforms will be needed to insure the Wikipedia governance is democratic and remains so.
1.	Wikipedia disrespects and disregards scholars, experts, scientists, and others with special knowledge. 
“Wikipedia specifically disregards authors with special
knowledge, expertise, or credentials. There is no way for a real
scholar to distinguish himself or herself from a random anonymous
editor merely claiming scholarly credentials, and thus no claim of
credentials is typically believed. Even when credentials are accepted,
Wikipedia affords no special regard for expert editors contributing in
their fields. This has driven most expert editors away from editing
Wikipedia in their fields. Similarly, Wikipedia implements no controls
that distinguish mature and educated editors from immature and
uneducated ones.”
Critique of Wikipedia’s open source ideology, as opposed to free software principles
2. Wikipedia’s culture of anonymous editing and administration results in a lack of responsible authorship and management. 
“Wikipedia editors may contribute as IP addresses, or as an
ever-changing set of pseudonyms. There is thus no way of determining
conflicts of interest, canvassing, or other misbehaviour in article
editing. Wikipedia’s adminsitrators are similarly anonymous, shielding
them from scrutiny for their actions. They additionally can hide the
history of their editing (or that of others).”
3. Wikipedia’s administrators have become an entrenched and
over-powerful elite, unresponsive and harmful to authors and
“Without meaningful checks and balances on administrators,
administrative abuse is the norm, rather than the exception, with
blocks and bans being enforced by fiat and whim, rather than in
implementation of policy. Many well-meaning editors have been banned
simply on suspicion of being previously banned users, without any
transgression, while others have been banned for disagreeing with a
powerful admin’s editorial point of view. There is no clear-cut code
of ethics for administrators, no truly independent process leading to
blocks and bans, no process for appeal that is not corrupted by the
imbalance of power between admin and blocked editor, and no process by
which administrators are reviewed regularly for misbehaviour.”
Overview of developments 
The blog Nonbovine ruminations critically monitors Wikipedia governance 
The Wikipedia has stopped growing because of the deletionists: Andrew Lih ; Slate 
Wikipedia’s abusive bio-deletion process: case by Tony Judge 
4. Wikipedia’s numerous policies and procedures are not
enforced equally on the community, popular or powerful editors are
often exempted. 
“Administrators, in particular, and former administrators, are
frequently allowed to trangress (or change!) Wikipedia’s numerous
policies, such as those prohibiting personal attacks, prohibiting the
release of personal information about editors, and those prohibiting
collusion in editing.”
The undemocratic practices of its investigative committee 
A personal experience
The badsites list of censored sites belonging to Wikipedia’s enemies 
Lack of transparency and accountability 
The Judd Bagley case 
InformationLiberation on Wikipedia’s totalitarian universe 
5. Wikipedia’s quasi-judicial body, the Arbitration Committee (ArbCom) is at best incompetent and at worst corrupt. 
“ArbCom holds secret proceedings, refuses to be bound by
precedent, operates on non-existant or unwritten rules, and does not
allow equal access to all editors. It will reject cases that threaten
to undermine the Wikipedia status quo or that would expose powerful
administrators to sanction, and will move slowly or not at all (in
public) on cases it is discussing in private.”
Monitoring of ArbCom’s activities
Summary of criticisms
The case of the secret mailing list for top insiders
6. The Wikimedia Foundation (WMF), the organization legally
responsible for Wikipedia, is opaque, is poorly managed, and is
insufficiently independent from Wikipedia’s remaining founder and his
business interests. 
“The WMF lacks a mechanism to address the concerns of outsiders,
resulting in an insular and socially irresponsible internal culture.
Because of inadequate oversight and supervision, Wikimedia has hired
incompetent and (in at least one case) criminal employees. Jimmy Wales
for-profit business Wikia benefits in numerous ways from its
association with the non-profit Wikipedia.”
The Foundation’s budget
Wikimedia chairwoman rejects demand for transparency
Review of the conflict of interest issue

From: Stephen Downes <stephen at downes.ca>
Cc: "idc at mailman.thing.net" <idc at mailman.thing.net>
Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 2:13:39 AM
Subject: Re: [iDC] "Wikipedia Art"


There is eventually going to be a power struggle on Wikipedia. This
will occur because, in the process of enforcing MPOV, citations,
notability, etc., Wikipedia has created a power structure. It is no
longer a freely collaborative enterprise, but one now where a smallish
group of people (the moderators can make decisions that over-rule the
majority. This is a classic instance of a power structure, and makes
Wikipedia  a tempting target for an organization large enough and
self-organized enough to effect the take-over.

Wikipedia's only defense against this sort of action (and the Wikipedia
Art page is a first of a kind (though if one believes the deleters'
comments, not even that), not an anomaly) is to return to its
collaborative roots. It's nice that this particular attempt to subvert
the power structure is art. Subsequent attempts to control the
encyclopedia will not be so benign. It must be necessary for the users
of Wikipedia - that vast majority of people who for the most part only
make occasional edits, who are not insiders, and will be moved only by
egregious errors and omissions - to be able to over-rule the power
structure. If this does not happen, then when one of these actions
succeeds (as it inevitably will) we will have lost Wikipedia as a voice
of knowledge and reason forever.

Since I don't exxpect the (current) Wikipedia elite to relinquish
power, this post is written for the record, so I can say "I told you
so" later on.

-- Stephen

Zbigniew Lukasiak wrote: 
On Tue, Feb 17, 2009 at 2:24 PM,  <koltzenburg at w4w.net> wrote:


sounds interesting to me but I do not seem to find any page of that name,

An article appeared on Wikipedia -- called "Wikipedia Art" -- with the
following description:

would you mind posting the link?

It was deleted:

Now it all depends if they make enough noise that it be heard in main
stream media - then Wikipedia will have a real problem with it.

I do like the paradoxical nature of it and I do think it is a kind of
art - but if they let it bury so easily then I guess it really is 'not



Stephen Downes  ~  Researcher  ~  National Research Council Canada
http://www.downes.ca  ~  stephen at downes.ca        ** Free Learning

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