Research:Wikipedia, Edit-a-Thons, and Integrated Audiences

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This page documents a proposed research project.
Information may be incomplete and may change before the project starts.

Many scholars study community identity or media effects, but little sociological research examines the connection between them. My dissertation aims to fill this scholastic gap by inviting us to consider how participatory media products shape community identity, a phenomenon I term "integrated audiences." To do so, I focus on the following questions: How do communities use participatory media technologies to make meaning and engage with others around them? How does a community’s engagement with media technologies shape their capacities to connect? Through interviews, ethnography, and focus groups, this dissertation focuses on the site of a specific reality television series (Swamp People), Yik Yak, and Wikipedia. I am looking to Wikipedians for help with case three as I am specifically interested in edit-a-thons and their relation to the widely discussed “Content Gap.” As part of this case I'm looking for people who might be interested in talking with me about 1) their experiences editing Wikipedia and/or 2) their experiences participating in or hosting edit-a-thons. I have been conducting interviews using Google Chat/Skype (but can talk by phone or in person if preferred) and interviews last approximately one hour. Content of the interviews are kept confidential and this project has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Virginia.


I am a qualitative researcher using ethnographic observations of Edit-a-Thons and Interviews. Prior to beginning any ethnographic observations I let those participating in the event know that I am a researcher. Those wishing not to participate are simply eliminated from field notes. Interviews are semi-structured and last approximately one hour. I prefer to audio-record the interviews and I've been conducting them in person, by phone, or over GoogleChat/Skype depending on the interviewees preference. Recorded content is kept confidential. When using quotes I change names, user names and even discussion of content creation in order to protect the anonymity of those who I speak with. Since interviews are semi-structured the nature of the questions that I ask may change a bit but a general set of questions asked include:

  1. How long have you been editing Wikipedia?
  2. When was the first Edit-a-Thon that you participated in? How many since then?
  3. If you have organized an Edit-a-Thon what are the challenges and successes you've experienced from the events?
  4. In what ways do you think Edit-a-Thons address the widely discussed Content Gaps on Wikipedia?
  5. Have you ever felt that content created during an Edit-a-Thon has been the target for deletion? Please explain your experiences if you felt this has happened.
  6. Do you follow up with new editors after they have attended an Edit-a-Thon?
  7. When Edit-a-Thons are created as a form of activism - how might that conflict with the NPOV or Verifiability standards?
  8. Can you please describe what the goals of the Edit-a-Thon(s) were that you participated in? Do you feel like those goals were accomplished? Why/why not?
  9. What are your own personal experiences with editing Wikipedia? What are the challenges/successes you face as an editor?


My goal is to complete interviews by December of 2015. Since this is the third case in my dissertation I want to complete collection by December so that I can work on analysis during the Spring of 2016. My goal is to graduate with my PhD in the Spring of 2017. Should my research turn into publications, I would expect them to come out in the Fall of 2017 in the form of academic journal articles or a book. In addition to academic work, I also will try to make my findings available in more public spaces whenever possible. I also would like to try and present my findings at WikiMania in the future.

Policy, Ethics and Human Subjects ResearchEdit

I take ethical standards of research very seriously and always maintain an active CITI certificate of ethical research. However, my study has been approved by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Virginia - Protocol #20130222 Those who agree to participate in the study will receive a consent to participate form which we will cover in detail before an interview begins and anyone who wishes to exit the study after participating can do so at any time.


Once your study completes, describe the results an their implications here. Don't forget to make status=complete above when you are done.