Submissions/Democracy Law and Morality - Decision Resources in Wikipedia

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

After careful consideration, the Programme Committee has decided not to accept the below submission at this time. Thank you to the author(s) for participating in the Wikimania 2014 programme submission, we hope to still see you at Wikimania this August.

Submission no. 1030
Title of the submission
Democracy, Law and Morality - Decision Resources in Wikipedia
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
Author of the submission
E-mail address
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)
Admin decisions in Wikipedia are bound to be impartial. Since expertise in a special field of knowledge will always imply a specific point of view, expertise is usually not accepted as a sufficient resource for an impartial decision. This means that a user acting as an admin needs additional resources to refer to. In this presentation, I will explore these resources and develop three types of decision resources empirically used in admin practice, using the example of the German Wikipedia. These resources are democracy, “law” (exegesis of rules), and morality. The typology is to be understood as ideal-typical in the sense of Max Weber, i.e. the three resources do not usually appear as pure forms but in a mix. I will describe the three types and discuss their features, risks, and potentials. “Democracy” means that an admin acts as an executor of the will of the community (or a majority of the community), expressed in elections, polls, and the like. “Law” means that an admin acts as an interpreter of the Wikipedia principles and rules, following specific procedures to find a decision. “Morality” means that an admin acts as a custodian of the project’s benefit, referring to moral values or else moral preconditions of successful project work. All three types of decision resources are also objects of criticism. Democracy often is critized as “mob rule” and restriction of the individual editor’s freedom, as expressed in the saying, “Polls are evil”. As to law, the saying “Ignore all rules” and the aversion to “wiki lawyering” also constitute a massive criticism of formalization and bureaucratization. Morality is criticized as moral hybris, replacing communicative procedures and plurality by a self-willed moral judgment. An exploration of these three ideal-types shows that all of them are necessary for legitimate admin decisions in Wikipedia. But they all have their specific risks. A dangerous situation may especially occur if a conflict situation is mainly managed by using democracy and morality resources since bargaining generally becomes very difficult in this case. In such situations, the formalization and proceduralization inherent in “law” resources may help to avoid exclusion and offer a stable basis for further communication and bargaining in order to find solutions.
WikiCulture & Community
Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
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Slides or further information (optional)
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  1. Denis Barthel (WMDE) (talk) 08:48, 31 March 2014 (UTC)[reply]
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