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Case studies: Wikipedia, 4chan,
and the Like economy
Week 4, February 12th
Logistics
If you are enrolled, you should have access
to bcourses: http://bcourses.berkeley.edu
 If you have trouble with bcourses, you can
get course info at:
http://s167.stuartgeiger.com

Stuart Geiger, lecturer for Module 1 (content)
[email protected]
Linus Huang, instructor of record
(administration)
[email protected]
Logistics
This class is split into three equal modules,
each taught independently by a different
instructor.
Logistics
Stuart Geiger: Theories and Institutional Context
Jan 29th, Feb 5th, Feb 12th, Feb 19th (exam)
Jen Schradie: Digital Democracy and Politics
Feb 26th, Mar 5th, Mar 12th, Mar 19th (exam)
Eve Shapiro: Identity and Everyday Life
Apr 2nd, Apr 9th, Apr 16th, May 16th (exam)
Logistics
Module 1:
5% participation assignment
25% in class exam on only module 1 (Feb 19th)
Module 2:
5% participation assignment
25% in class exam on only module 2 (Mar 19th)
Logistics
Module 3:
5% participation assignment
35% final exam (May 16, 3-6pm)
Final exam:
25% will cover only module 3
10% will cover modules 1-3
NO FINAL PAPER!
Today’s class
Exam next week
 Last week: Lessig and Bogost
 Wikipedia: culture and code
 4chan, /b/, and Anonymous
 The Like economy

Midterm next week
A mix of:
 Multiple choice
 Short answer
 Essays (no more than 1 page)

The exam will primarily test theories and
core concepts from the authors.
 You do not need to memorize dates!

EXAMPLE multiple choice Q
Which statement does NOT discuss McLuhan’s concept
of the layered nature of media, in which he argues “the
‘content’ of any medium is always another medium”?
A.
B.
C.
D.
Movies and TV streamed by Netflix make up 30% of
all US Internet traffic.
More teens are quitting Facebook, largely
because their parents have also joined the site.
In e-mail, it is common to include a greeting and a
signature, which is a tradition from paper letters.
Wikipedia imagines itself as both a wiki and an
encyclopedia, a new way of achieving an old goal
EXAMPLE essay question 1
Part 1: Lawrence Lessig argues that
individual behavior is regulated and governed
in four different kinds of fundamental
strategies. List these four strategies (1 point,
.25 points each).
EXAMPLE essay question 1
Part 2:
Some friends of yours have created a wiki-based
website like Wikipedia, but dedicated to UCBerkeley. As it is a wiki, anybody can write an
article about anything they want, and anybody can
edit any existing article in any way they desire. It
was very successful, and got the attention of the
university administration. However, there have
recently been complaints that some people have
been adding obscene language to this website.
EXAMPLE essay question 1
The university chancellor, who does not believe
curse words belong on the site, has asked you to
advise him on this matter. Give a specific example
of how this behavior could be regulated using each
of Lessig’s four strategies (2 sentences each, 1
point each).
You only need to show you know the differences
between these four strategies -- they do not have to
be feasible solutions, and you do not have to
explain or justify why each ought to implemented.
EXAMPLE essay question 2
In 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote that:
“After three thousand years of explosion, by
means of fragmentary and mechanical
technologies, the Western world is imploding.
During the mechanical ages we had extended our
bodies in space. Today, after more than a century
of electric technology, we have extended our
central nervous system itself in a global embrace,
abolishing both space and time as far as our
planet is concerned.” (McLuhan 1964: 3)
EXAMPLE essay question 2
In 2 sentences, discuss one example of a
media from before the Internet that supports
McLuhan’s argument about how media
impact society by abolishing time or space.
Next, in 2 sentences, discuss one example of
an Internet-based media that also supports
this aspect of McLuhan’s argument about
abolishing time or space.
EXAMPLE essay question 2
Then, in 2 sentences, compare these two
examples, identifying one major difference
between the pre-Internet and Internet-based
media you discussed.
Finally, in 2-3 sentences, use these examples
to take a firm stance on whether you agree or
disagree with McLuhan’s argument that
electronic media abolish time and space.
EXAMPLE essay question 2
Your examples can be from the readings,
from the lecture, or entirely your own. You
should not have to do outside research to
answer this question or cite sources. There is
no correct side to take, as you will instead be
graded on your understanding of the
argument. In both parts, write clearly,
concisely, and concretely.
Takeaways from Lessig

Four modes of governing:
 Laws
 Norms
 Market/economics
 Architecture/code

“Code is law”:
 The software code behind Internet platforms
is just as powerful as government laws, but
this operates in a different manner

Lessig in relation to McLuhan
Takeaways from Bogost

Procedural rhetoric:
 video games make arguments not only
through representations (image, text, sound)
but through their rules and procedures

Bogost and McLuhan:
 Bogost is making a McLuhan-ist argument in
one sense, that there is more than content
 But he is also bringing literary/cultural
critique to the media form itself, not just its
sociological implications
Why Wikipedia and 4chan?
Imagining
community
Social norms and rules
Affordances and
architecture
Sub-communities
Wikipedia: culture and code
As a wiki-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia is part
of two broader societal projects:
Wikipedia: culture and code
As a wiki-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia is part
of two broader societal projects:
Wikipedia: culture and code
As a wiki-based encyclopedia, Wikipedia is part
of two broader societal projects:
Wikipedia: “in good faith”
“On a wiki, contributors can communicate
asynchronously and contribute incrementally. Tasks
can be modularized. Changes are easily reverted.
Accessible documentation, discussion pages,
templates, and automated tools further coordination.
However, technology, while important, is insufficient.
Plenty of projects fail despite the wiki pixie dust. …
good faith social norms (combined with wiki
features) constructively facilitate Wikipedia
collaboration.” (Reagle, ch 8)
How important is the “wiki”?
How important is the “wiki”?
Affordances vs. McLuhan
Affordances are material properties of a
medium that support (or fail to support)
specific kinds of practices and activities.
Affordances vs. McLuhan
Affordances are material properties of a
medium that support (or fail to support)
specific kinds of practices and activities.
A McLuhan-ist argument would be more
forceful about the impact of the media
(wiki) itself, rather than focusing on norms.
Wikipedia’s norms

Reagle describes many community norms:
 Assume good faith
 Neutral point of view
 Verifiability
 No original research
Wikipedia’s norms

Reagle describes many community norms:
 Assume good faith
 Neutral point of view
 Verifiability
 No original research

Case: what is Jimmy Wales’s birthday?
Robots and cyborgs

Reagle’s arguments about norms are
responding to the McLuhanists who
focus on the wiki medium
Robots and cyborgs

Reagle’s arguments about norms are
responding to the McLuhanists who
focus on the wiki medium

My work is bringing a focus on the role
of media back to Wikipedia research
 This is closer to Lessig than McLuhan
Robots and cyborgs

The story of Wikipedia bots actually has a lot
to do with 4chan (squidward raid)
Robots and cyborgs
The story of Wikipedia bots actually has a lot
to do with 4chan (squidward raid)
 Wikipedians built software that would
automatically remove inappropriate content
from articles

Robots and cyborgs
The story of Wikipedia bots actually has a lot
to do with 4chan (squidward raid)
 Wikipedians built software that would
automatically remove inappropriate content
from articles
 Today, these agents dominate:

 about 40% of all edits rejected are rejected by
robots or cyborgs
 Over 75% of new editors are ‘welcomed’ by a robot
or cyborg
4chan, /b/, and anonymous

4chan.org: a website hosted by moot
4chan, /b/, and anonymous

4chan.org: a website hosted by moot
4chan, /b/, and anonymous

/b/ -- 4chan’s “random” board, which
gets about 30% of its traffic
4chan, /b/, and anonymous

/b/ -- 4chan’s “random” board, which
gets about 30% of its traffic
/v/ -- video games
 /fit/ -- fitness
 /pol/ -- politics
 /ck/ -- food and cooking

4chan, /b/, and anonymous

/b/ -- 4chan’s “random” board, which
gets about 30% of its traffic
/v/ -- video games
 /fit/ -- fitness
 /pol/ -- politics
 /ck/ -- cooking

4chan, /b/, and anonymous

Anonymous – the loosely-affiliated
protest movement that began on 4chan,
but has since moved to many other
spaces (online and offline)
Why Wikipedia and 4chan?
Imagining
community
Social norms and rules
Affordances and
architecture
Sub-communities
Why Wikipedia and 4chan?
Imagining
community
 Both Wikipedia and 4chan have
a community
 These communities have their
own history and legacy
 The community does not just
exist online
Why Wikipedia and 4chan?
Social
norms and rules
 Is technology enough to explain
social order?
 There are strong norms in both
communities
 These norms exist in members’
imaginations (especially in 4chan)
Why Wikipedia and 4chan?
Affordances
and architecture
 4chan and Wikipedia are built to
be quite different platforms
 This seems to change how
people interact on the site
 But how much does architecture
really matter, vs. norms?
Why Wikipedia and 4chan?

Sub-communities
 Not all norms are equally strong
 We self-select into smaller
groups with people like us
 This is because of social
reasons, but can be supported
by a media technology (or not)
The effects of anonymity
“anonymity has a profound behavioral
impact. Most obviously, because there are
no repercussions for posting racist, sexist,
homophobic or exploitative text and/or
images, and because trolling is
characterized by transgressive oneupmanship, /b/ is overrun by highly
offensive and sometimes explicitly illegal
content” (Phillips, 7)
Where is the community?
“trolls and mainstream media outlets,
specifically Fox News, are locked in a
cybernetic feedback loop predicted upon
spectacle; each camp amplifies and builds
upon the other’s reactions” (Phillips, 1)
The community “lives” not only on
4chan.org, but on the forums and mass
media outlets it seeks to invade and troll.
Where is the community?
“trolls and mainstream media outlets,
specifically Fox News, are locked in a
cybernetic feedback loop predicted upon
spectacle; each camp amplifies and builds
upon the other’s reactions” (Phillips, 1)
How does this relate to Anderson’s theory
of imagined communities and the history of
print?
The Like economy
The Like economy
“by erasing the visible artifacts
of Facebook’s quantification
algorithms, the Demetricator
can draw our attention to the
ways those metrics motivate
our behavior on the site”
(Boesel 2012)
The Like economy
“Facebook Demetricator doesn’t attempt
to camouflage differences in quantity; it
just takes numerical counts out of the
foreground … [the goal of Demetricator]
is to call into question whether that
pleasure is really from *the number* of
likes, or from *who* likes.”
(Boesel 2012)
The Like economy
This is an issue of affordances:
What kinds of practices does a like count
make easier? What does it make harder?
The Like economy
This is an issue of affordances:
What kinds of practices does a like count
make easier? What does it make harder?
What kinds of practices does a
Demetricated like count make easier?
What does it make harder?
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