Alfonso Hegde | Does Wikipedia enable the forging of a collective memory via consensus?

Watch Alfonso’s talk on YouTube.

For my paper I intend to discuss the ways in which collective memory via consensus are made on Wikipedia and who that consensus is built around. I will examine the social processes and power hierarchies within Wikipedia collective memory making endeavors, specifically looking at Wikipedia editors as the primary site of inquiry. This paper will problematize this notion of consensus by exploring the processes involved in becoming a Wikipedia editor and the privileges that come with that title, various points of conflict among editors and the larger Wikipedia community in terms of flagging and editing Wikipedia content, and the biases among editors when it comes to difficult decisions editors make around grey area content.

I will interview multiple high-level Wikipedia editors as the primary method for my research, intending to study the specific actors around whom consensus is being built and where the tensions lie among these parties and the broader public that might be excluded. I center this research among scholarship on critical platform studies, participatory cultures and civic engagement, and semantic web theories.

I hope to pursue this research to generate important ideas around where internal hierarchies and social inequities manifest within seemingly collective knowledge making endeavors in order to provide important guidelines for how sites such as Wikipedia can improve their processes to create broader consensus. I am interested in finding that fine line between presenting only vetted content from trustworthy sources of expertise while avoiding rendering necessary dissent and contrarian views invisible.

Alfonso Hegde (he/him) is currently finishing his Master of Science in Digital Social Media at USC and is an incoming PhD student for USC’s Communication program both at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. His research interests are still developing but he is broadly interested in understanding the relationship between democracy-focused activism and digital platform design and affordances pulling from fields such as STS, social movement studies, and critical technology/platforms work. Alfonso wants to uncover the precise points of conflict between capital-centered platform design and democratic activism, and the innovative ways in which activists negotiate space for themselves within a digital landscape that is often antithetical to their goals. He comes from an undergraduate background in media studies and anthropology, grew up within the Pacific Northwest’s technology boom of the ‘90s and 2000s, and has been collecting vinyl records for over a decade with 300+ albums in his collection so far!