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News from the Wikimedia Foundation and about the Wikimedia movement

Announcing the Community Department Summer of Research

It is my pleasure to announce that, starting today and continuing through August this year, the Community Department at the Wikimedia Foundation will be hosting eight talented academics from around the world for a summer research program.

This initiative brings together those working in a variety of fields — from Computer Science to Rhetoric and Language Studies — for an interdisciplinary look at Wikipedia communities. We’ve also made an effort to bring aboard those who have previously chosen Wikimedia projects as a research topic in their academic work. Led by Diederik van Liere, Maryana Pinchuk, and Steven Walling, the group will be concentrating on a wide-ranging set of questions that address vital issues of openness and participation in Wikipedia.

Please welcome all our summer researchers:

  • R. Stuart Geiger is a PhD candidate, UC Berkeley School of Information, focusing on knowledge production in distributed and decentralized environments — specifically Wikipedia and scientific research networks. He has been a Wikipedia editor since 2004 has been studying the project as an ethnographer since 2007. His current research explores the relationship between technical infrastructures and social structures, and he has written on bots, vandal fighting, administration, and the history of Wikipedia.
  • Aaron Halfaker is a PhD candidate of Computer Science at the University of Minnesota, GroupLens Research, focusing on Computer-mediated human interaction. Aaron started editing Wikipedia four years ago and quickly found his niche creating user scripts to find ways of improving the collaborative experience. His research explores mechanisms for motivating and supporting volunteer collaboration.
  • Fabian Kaelin is a Master of Science candidate from McGill University, focused on machine learning.
  • Melanie Kill is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Maryland, specializing in digital rhetoric and genre studies. She is currently at work on a book on Wikipedia and the history of the genre of the encyclopedia. She earned her PhD in Rhetoric and Language Studies from University of Washington and previously has taught at Texas Christian University.
  • Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia is a PhD candidate at the University of Lugano in Switzerland. Giovanni is a computer scientist who studies user involvement in commons-based peer production communities, group consensus and collective deliberation processes.
  • Yusuke Matsubara is a PhD student, University of Tokyo (Japan), studying computational linguistics. His research focus is in analysing how people write and read from a computational and empirical point of view. Since 2008, he has been an occasional writer, translator and programmer for Wikimedia.
  • Jonathan Morgan is a PhD candidate, University of Washington, studying social interaction on collaborative online creative environments. As a researcher, he is particularly interested in tracing connections between the things people say (and the way they say them) and their roles, goals and activities online. He also works on the design of tools for improving public deliberation on the web, and on practical tools for internet researchers.
  • Shawn Walker is a PhD candidate at the University of Washington iSchool, and studies digital government and public engagement.

This endeavor presents a unique opportunity; there will be more full-time researchers at the Wikimedia Foundation for these three months than ever before in its history. By gathering a working group with strong qualitative and quantitative skillsets, we hope to produce a rich body of results with both scientific rigor and of great practical use to the Wikimedia movement.

If you’re a Wikipedian who would like to get involved, we’d love to have you participate. We especially seek community members who can pragmatically align our research with the everyday realities of working on the encyclopedia, as well as think about how trends uncovered may be constructively addressed.

For other researchers and developers interested in Wikipedia, we’ll be publishing our code and data (when in line with our privacy policy) under a free and open license so that you can build on it in the future.

If you’re curious about the particulars of the research, our documentation on Meta and the associated discussion pages are the best sources of information. We’ll also be blogging frequently here about our work.


Zack Exley,
Chief Community Officer

3 Responses to “Announcing the Community Department Summer of Research”

  1. Dario says:

    Welcome on board everybody! And thanks Zack for officially launching the “research” tag on the blog :)

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