Wikipedia and the 2008 US elections

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Unlike most encyclopedias, Wikipedia's articles are often created and edited relating to current events and people in the news. During the 2008 elections in the United States, Wikipedia articles themselves often became news items. This resource is a research project about how these articles were created and changed during the course of the elections.

This project is being undertaken as a study of how Wikipedia content in general is generated, particularly in the context of subjects where NPOV may be difficult to attain. While most of the relevant articles have attained a state of relative stability at this time (January, 2009), the issues are still "fresh", and most of the contributors may still be active. The issues surrounding the election give us the opportunity to study how the Wikipedia community handled a wide array of contentious issues, including race, gender, religion, war, economic difficulties, and of course politics, among other issues.

Methods[edit]

  • Review existing legacy of previous article-history studies.
  • A collection of articles about election-related events will be selected, preferably articles which had a lot of activity on the discussion page, and/or have been discussed in the media.
  • Develop sets of questions and a consistent layout for pages that address various types of articles
  • Make timelines (graphical?) comparing number of page edits, talk page posts, and real-time events in the elections.
  • compare editing activities before, during, and after the election
  • notable trends
  • Blocs, blocks, and other community-related issues that affect the article (see below).
  • POV versions? (i.e., what would non-NPOV versions of the article look like)
  • Contributor and reader surveys

Human resources needed[edit]

Data analysis[edit]

We'll need people willing and able to organize the data around the articles (edit counts, etc.), either manually or robotically

Graphics[edit]

The WikipediaWeekly podcast has discussion about Wikipedia as an election news source (recorded November 20, 2008). The graphed data (above) show the number of the page hits for the Wikipedia articles about Barack Obama and John McCain. Data are from the last few hours late in the day on November 4, 2008.

We'll need people who are good at turning data into useful graphical representations

Template design[edit]

Infoboxes and other templates will help give the resources a consistent and easily navigable feel

Context[edit]

We will need people who are well-informed about the events of 2008, so that timelines can be correlated to influential events in the election. If Wikipedia policies changed during the period in any relevant way, we will also need people with a good working knowledge of that.

Structure[edit]

  • Use top subpages for each person or event, with secondary subpages for included studies? Or use top subpages for individual articles?

Results[edit]

  • When the community feels ready, the study could be submitted for peer review.

Special guidelines for discussing editors[edit]

Inevitably some of the content here will discuss how particular editors contributed to the process. In these cases, certain ground rules will be strictly adhered to:

  1. If it is necessary to discuss a particular editor, use their username. "Outing" or otherwise discussing anything not specifically shared on the contributor's Wikimedia userpages will result in an indefinite block and a notice of the behavior on appropriate Wikipedia noticeboards.
  2. This is a research project, not a "RFC". Discussion of contributors must be verified and NPOV.

Bear in mind that Wikiversity is an independent project, so the interpretation and discussion of editors is not in any way "out of bounds", any more than it would be for any university to study how current events are treated on Wikipedia... the main difference is that it's being done openly, and (hopefully) with the active participation of the contributors being discussed.

However: discussion of editors is strongly discouraged for the time being, until we can agree on clear and strong rules governing this sensitive topic!

Articles[edit]

Currently in the experimental phase:

External projects[edit]