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Oxford Internet Institute University of Oxford

OII Newsletter February 2016

Dear friends and colleagues,

I’m very pleased to announce that the OII is a member of the interdisciplinary research hub on the Internet of Things announced by Ed Vaizey last month. Intended to drive UK research in this area, we will be leading on the socio-ethical aspects of IoT research, technologies, and applications, with our Prof. of Philosophy and Ethics of Information, Luciano Floridi, as the OII's PI. The ethical dimensions of data is something we’re well placed for in terms of expertise—Luciano was recently appointed as one of the six members of the EU’s new Ethics Advisory Group (EAG)—a huge honour and responsibility. Reporting to the European Data Protection Supervisor, the EAG will help define a new digital ethics for Europe, allowing better realisation of the benefits of technology for society and the economy in ways which reinforce the rights and freedoms of individuals.

In a happy parallel, the recent report by the Parliamentary Science and Technology Select Committee on “The Big Data Dilemma” recommended “that the Government should establish a 'Council of Data Ethics' within the Alan Turing Institute as a means of addressing the growing legal and ethical challenges associated with balancing privacy, anonymisation, security and public benefit. Establishing such a Council, with appropriate terms of reference, will provide the clarity, stability and direction which has so far been lacking from the European debate on data protection issues.” For us as a University of Oxford department partnering in the ATI, this recommendation from the S&T Committee is extremely welcome, presenting the ATI—and the OII—with a wonderful chance to help lead and drive the crucial area of data ethics.

Of course, our research at the OII often relies on access to rich social data from a number of platforms, something we’re considering in September’s IPP2016 conference on "The Platform Society". One particularly impressive (and open) repository of this data is Wikipedia. Our recent Wikipedia 15th Birthday Editathon (above) was a great success: a mix of practical training and editing, led by Martin Poulter of the Bodleian Libraries, and presentations from our faculty on what Wikipedia’s 10TB of data can tell us about the world: everything from global inequality, power and governance structures, controversy and conflict, language and geography of information — and even how “truth” itself is created and disseminated through the platform.

Finally, we’ll be holding our next Internet Awards dinner on 11 November (tickets are already on sale, including a student / alumni discount). Our fifth awards evening, they have always been tremendous fun—a wonderful chance to meet some of the remarkable individuals who have make such a positive mark on the Internet and society (our 2016 winners will be announced soon). We hope you can come!

Best wishes,
Helen Margetts, Director

In this issue...

The World According to Wikipedia

Wikipedia doesn't just reflect the world, it shapes it -- and we have more power to edit and change information than ever before. Is Wikipedia making long-standing issues around global visibility and inequality better or worse? Who knows, basically: but it doesn’t on the face of it seem to be fixing the problem, given the systemic bias towards the West, both in terms of the distribution of articles deemed notable, access to published information sources, and the amount of content edited locally.

User Generating the World

Mark Graham on mapping the global knowledge economy, and the striking inequalities in Wikipedia's coverage.

Cultures of Wikipedia

Bernie Hogan on the massive variation in locally authored content worldwide. How do we encourage greater equality?

How Does Wikipedia Create 'Facts'?

Wikipedia is not just incredibly popular, it’s increasingly authoritative in our online information environment, and its information works its way into all sorts of different places we might not expect. This can be an issue, particularly when it isn't clear who's in charge of these "facts". But all edits are time- and user-stamped, making Wikipedia a hugely valuable data-source for social scientists to examine and understand editorial conflicts: how they erupt, and how they eventually resolve and die down. Or not.

Fact Factories: How Wikipedia's Logics Determine What Facts Are Represented Online

Heather Ford unpicks the complex and messy process of creating 'facts'.

How Wikipedia’s silent coup ousted our traditional sources of knowledge

Heather Ford on why we should care about where our information comes from.

Social Aspects of Collaborative Editing on Wikipedia: Revenge, Conflict, and War

Taha Yasseri explains how you can model conflicts over time to a resolution (or not).

Edit wars! Measuring and mapping society’s most controversial topics

Guess what (rather, who) is Wikipedia's most controversial topic? One guess.

Wikipedia's Big Data: Language and Geography

As a social science department we love social data, and Wikipedia comes with lots of it — geocodes, time stamps, user edit logs, and links between language editions—all of which help to untangle the complex social stuff of the world it aims to represent, and also the complexity of what’s happening behind Wikipedia’s famously basic interface.

How Much Interaction Is There Between Wikipedia’s Language Editions?

Scott Hale on multilingualism, and Wikipedia's many language editions.

Geographies of Knowledge in Wikipedia

Stefano De Sabbata examines geotags, and the new kinds of geographies and data being created on Wikipedia.

Selected Articles

Ford, H., Geiger, R.S. (2012) Writing up rather than writing down: Becoming Wikipedia literate. WikiSym12. Proc. Eighth Annual Int. Symp. on Wikis and Open Collaboration.
Ford, H., Sen, S., Musicant, D.R., Miller, N. (2013) Getting to the source: where does Wikipedia get its information from? WikiSym13.

Graham, M., Straumann, R., Hogan, B. (2016) Digital Divisions of Labor and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 105 (6) 1158-1178. doi:10.1080/00045608.2015.1072791.

Graham, M., Zook., M., and Boulton, A. (2013) Augmented Reality in the Urban Environment: contested content and the duplicity of code. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 38 (3) 464-479.

Hale, S.A. (2014) Multilinguals and Wikipedia editing. In Proceedings of the 2014 ACM Conference on Web Science (WebSci '14). ACM, New York, NY, 99-108.

Kim, S., Park, S., Hale, S.A., Kim, S., Byun, J. and Oh, A. (forthcoming) Understanding Editing Behaviors in Multilingual Wikipedia.

Samoilenko, A., Yasseri, T. (2014) The distorted mirror of Wikipedia: a quantitative analysis of Wikipedia coverage of academics. EPJ Data Science 3 (1) 1-11.

Yasseri, T., Sumi, R., Rung, A., Kornai, A., Kertész, J. (2012) Dynamics of Conflicts in Wikipedia. PLoS ONE 7 (6) e38869.

Martin Poulter asks about editing conflicts: presenting are Scott, Stefano, and Taha.

Thank you to everyone who took part in the day—editing, presenting and contributing to discussions—and a massive thank you to Martin and the Bodleian Libraries!

In the Press

There’s been good coverage of our work and use of our expert commentators over the past few months. The issues behind Apple’s resistance to the FBI’s request to access the mobile phone of a killer was explained by Ian Brown on the BBC World Service, on BBC4’s PM programme, and also on CNN. Luciano Floridi talked to the Irish Times about the potential damage to technology firms which ignore ethical issues. An expert report on children’s access to pornography commissioned by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was widely covered, and lead author Vicki Nash wrote articles for both The Conversation and the Huffington Post. Mark Graham challenged the motivation behind Facebook’s offer of Freebasic in India in The Conversation, and Viktor Mayer-Schönberger commented on European data protection practices in Fortune. Finally, ‘Political Turbulence, how Social Media Shape Collective Action’ (by H.Margetts, P.John, S.Hale, and T.Yasseri) was very favourably reviewed in the Times Higher Education, and referenced by John Naughton in his piece on Twitter in the Observer; and Helen Margetts was interviewed about the book for BBC Radio 4’s Today programme [00:54] and Deutsche Welle. (This is just a summary: see all the press.)

Forthcoming Events

23 Feb 2016:
Rob Blakey and Jenna Milani: When do the British public condone police violence against Asian Muslims? An experimental comparison of the public response to the 2015 Paris and Kenya attacks

1 Mar 2016:
Max Roser: Visualising Global Development on an Open-Access Online Publication

2 Mar 2016:
Judy Wajcman: Automation, robotics and the promise of an easier life

8 Mar 2016: Claudia Abreu Lope, Sharath Srinivasan: Big Data, Human Development and Valuing Voices: Innovation and Ethical Challenges in the work of Africa’s Voices Foundation

9 Mar 2016:
Chris Chambers: Bellwether Lecture: The power of the crowd: Combining open science, citizen science and the internet to generate reproducible knowledge

10 Mar 2016:
Transformation of Work Conference

14-15 Mar 2016:
Ethical Risk Assessment in Biomedical Big Data

16 Mar 2016:
Nathan Matias: Civic Labor Online: Volunteer Governance and Collective Bargaining by reddit Moderators

22-23 Sep 2016:
IPP2016: The Platform Society

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