Advisor: Sneha Narayan
Wikipedia is one of the most important and highly accessed information repositories on the web. When we see that an event or person has an article about them on Wikipedia, they are conferred with a kind of legitimacy; in some sense, coverage on Wikipedia represents that this is a topic of collective interest that people have bothered to write about. However, the answers to questions like "what topics are worth writing Wikipedia articles about?" are not stable, and can change over time. They might reflect what Wikipedia editors care about and are paying attention to, as well as changing norms within the Wikipedia community and in society as a whole.
One particular mechanism that transforms our ideas of which topics are notable are prominent social movements. Many social movements work precisely to shape our collective notions of what issues are considered important, and seek to demonstrate that their grievances are legitimate. For example, when the Black Lives Matter movement gained steam, they sought to draw attention to instances of police officers shooting unarmed black people. The rise of this movement not only affected the extent to which police shootings were covered by news media, but also how they were covered on Wikipedia (Twyman et. al. 2017).
Since coverage on Wikipedia can be seen as a reflection of a topic’s legitimacy and influence, analyzing how a particular social movement shapes contributions to the encyclopedia can tell us a lot about whether and how that movement changes the way we collectively document ideas and events connected to their cause. It can also shed light on how editing activity on Wikipedia is shaped by current events. In this project, you will analyze how Wikipedia editing activity was affected by a social movement of your choosing by building and analyzing a large dataset of revisions made to articles connected to the movement, and tracking how editing activity on those articles changed over the course of the movement’s prominence.
The inspiration for this project comes from work done in this paper, which examines how the Black Lives Matter movement affected collaboration and documentation practices on Wikipedia. Your task will be to replicate the analysis in the paper, either for Black Lives Matter, or for a different social movement of your choice (perhaps the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, or something else entirely). In particular, you will:
All seniors are likely to have the necessary background for the computational parts of these projects. If you have had any statistics classes that introduced concepts about hypothesis testing (i.e. any course that might count towards the Statistics major, or a quantitative analysis course in one of the sciences/social sciences) that might be helpful for the analysis portion, but it is not a prerequisite. I’d expect you to be interested in learning and thinking about applications of computational techniques to problems motivated by the social sciences, but beyond a willingness to read papers in these areas, no specific social science background is required.
You can skim the paper this project is based on to get a sense of the kinds of analysis you will be doing, and the related work you’ll be reading for background.
Twyman, M., Keegan, B. C., & Shaw, A. (2017, February). Black Lives Matter in Wikipedia: Collective memory and collaboration around online social movements. In Proceedings of the 2017 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (pp. 1400-1412). ACM