Studying factions of users in Wikipedia

In a recent study, we analysed the interactions between self-proclaimed Democrats and Repubblicans in Wikipedia.

We started from the identification of users having in their personal page a userbox indicating support for one of the two major US parties. In this way, we were able to identify about 800 Democrats and 600 Republicans.

This allowed us to study representation practices, activity and interactions of these two sets of users according to several dimensions, such as the kind of the other userboxes they had in their profile, the articles most edited by each party, the presence of conflict in the threads in which they were involved, and the emotional content of their messages.

The Figure shows the network of replies in article discussions between Democrats (in blue) and Republicans (in red). The size of each node is proportional to the number of connections (degree). Edges connecting two Democrats are depicted in blue, edges connecting two Republicans in red, edges connecting a Democrat and a Republican in green.

In contrast to the fragmentation observed in the blogosphere and in the twittersphere, the figure shows evidence of the remarkable presence of dialogue and debate between the two parties in Wikipedia.

Analogously, we are currently exploring the possibility of studying users with different positioning about climate change. In fact, we found several userboxes expressing concern for the current situation of the planet and the climate change:

or skepticism of anthropogenic global warming:

Some of these userboxes are quite popular; for example, the last one is present in the personal page of 177 users. This method may thus result in the association of a considerable number of users to a positioning about climate change, which would allow an analysis of the behaviour of different user groups and the interactions between them.

 

Reference

Neff J. G., Laniado D., Kappler K., Volkovich Y., Aragon P., Kaltenbrunner A. (2012). Jointly they edit: Examining the impact of community identification on political interaction in Wikipedia. arXiv:1210.6883

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