(This is the sixth installment in a series of updates from the WikiHistories summer research fellows, who will be studying the virtual community history of different Wikipedia editing communities.)
During my trip in Turkey, I’ve met with many interesting Vikipedians who truly believe in the importance of their contribution to Vikipedi and enjoy the many hours they spend in front of their computers editing the encyclopedia. It has been a highly remarkable experience to meet so many users with a highly successful educational background and with great ambition for their futures. Most Vikipedians are in different stages of their high school and college educations and see Vikipedi as an important part of their academic growth, as well as a significant part of their social life. This was one of the reasons why many of them repeatedly expressed interest in organizing regular meetings. But, they are also interested in organizing international meetings such as Wikimania.
This year, Vikipedians worked really hard for their Wikimania 2012 campaign. But they were not able to find a sponsor for the event and as a result did not have a chance to organize a comprehensive campaign. Although Vikipedi lost the opportunity to host the conference for the next year, there is new hope for Wikimania 2013. Another event that really excites the community is an upcoming conference on new media in Istanbul, New Media Order, where Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has been invited to be a keynote speaker along with Julian Assange, the co-founder of Wikileaks.org. In addition to an immense synergy that these two prominent free-information advocates might bring, the conference also has a great potential to be an important venue to talk about Internet freedom in Turkey.
This issue has recently garnered a great deal of attention in the context of the imminent threat of the recently proposed Internet ban by the Turkish government, aimed at controlling access to “harmful content.” Last May, thousands of people protested the Internet ban proposal on the streets of major cities across the country by pointing out that the filtering system is compulsory, based on a very arbitrary criteria and too comprehensive. However, there has not been any significant progress in talks with the agency that would be in charge of the application of this new blanket filtering mechanism by 22 August, 2011.
In the light of these recent debates, the New Media Order conference might serve as a platform for a serious discussion by including a larger group of people who have stakes in the free access to information on the Internet. During my interactions with the members of the Vikipedi community I have noticed a great sensibility about the prospects of these restrictions. However, in order to be able to participate in these kinds of vital debates, Vikipedi users think that a Wikimedia Turkey office would be highly useful, which seems to be the next big step for the community.
“We don’t think they would ever filter contents of Vikipedi, but who knows, maybe we would be the first to go, because Vikipedi has already seen many threats, and in some occasions we even had to delete revision histories” said one Vikipedi user, who prefers to remain anonymous. However, these possibilities most of the time translate themselves into a concerted awareness of Vikipedi’s responsibility that further energizes the community, bringing more hope for saving free information in Turkey.
Communication and Cognitive Science
University of California San Diego