Algorithmic systems in Wikipedia: going ‘beyond opening up the black box’

October 2, 2017

BIDS Ethnographer R. Stuart Geiger has just published an article about his ethnographic research into Wikipedia in the journal Big Data & Society, as part of a special issue on Algorithms in Culture, edited by Morgan Ames, Jason Oakes, Massimo Mazzotti, Marion Fourcade, and Gretchen Gano. This special issue was the result of a workshop of the same name held last year at UC-Berkeley, where presenters looked at different socio-cultural approaches to algorithms.

This article uses the case of Wikipedia's unusually open algorithmic systems to rethink the "black box" metaphor, which has become a standard way to discuss ethical, social, and political issues around artificial intelligence, machine learning, expert systems, and other automated, data-driven decision-making processes. Dr. Geiger instead analyses Wikipedia's open algorithmic systems as parts of the community's culture, focusing on how becoming a veteran Wikipedian involves learning not just traditional cultural norms, but also familiarity with specific systems that help Wikipedians edit and maintain the "anyone can edit" encyclopedia at scale. In looking to approaches to understanding culture from the humanities and the interpretive social sciences, we get a different perspective on what it means for algorithmic systems to be open, transparent, accountable, fair, and explainable.

New article about algorithmic systems in Wikipedia and going ‘beyond opening up the black box’
R Stuart Geiger | September 27, 2017

Beyond opening up the black box: Investigating the role of algorithmic systems in Wikipedian organizational culture  
R Stuart Geiger | Big Data & Society | September 26, 2017