Submissions/Playing with the law - Legality in Wikipedia

From Wikimania 2014 • London, United Kingdom

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2014.

Submission no. 2519
Title of the submission
Playing with the Law: Legality in Wikipedia
Type of submission (discussion, hot seat, panel, presentation, tutorial, workshop)
Author of the submission
Ayelet Oz
E-mail address
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organisation, company etc.)
Harvard Law School (SJD student)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

People tell a variety of stories about the law – some describe it as remote and inaccessible, an almost divine institution of right and wrong. Others tell us it is all nothing but a game, in which everybody takes care of their own interests. A third story is that the law is nothing but a tool in the hands of the strong and powerful to control the disenfranchised. Many times, all of these stories are told at once, or by one person at different times. For the last decade, socio-legal scholars have studied the way these narratives and others shape the way ordinary people from different groups experience and understand the law: working class Americans, the poor, or people with disabilities. These kinds of studies are usually grouped together under the title of “legal consciousness”. My study adds to this literature by looking at the legal consciousness of Wikipedians. Through an online ethnography of Wikipedia I conducted in the last couple of years, I explored the way Wikipedians talk about the law and the ways they behave in a semi-legal institution as the Arbitration Committee. My findings led me to conclude that Wikipedians “play” with the law. First, I realized that Wikipedia is saturated with law: Wikipedia’s internal regulation is based on legal paradigms, and Wikipedians constantly use legal vocabulary and jargon. Second, I saw that Wikipedians do not take law at face value: they challenge basic axioms of law, they re-interpret legal doctrine, and suggest new meanings to traditional legal concepts. They see law not as something distinct and remote, but as a part of everyday life, that may be invoked or ignored at will. This ‘playful’ view of law, I believe, comes from inserting law into the world of online culture, which is based on the ideals of openness, diversity and free participation.

  • Legal & Free Culture

Length of session (if other than 30 minutes, specify how long)
30 minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
probably not.
Slides or further information (optional)
Special requests

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  1. Ziko (talk) 22:23, 14 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
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  3. Wiki CRUK John (talk) 13:24, 12 June 2014 (UTC)[reply]