SESSION 4: 10.00 – 12.30. Saturday, March 27
Recent research in the field of critical software studies has placed much attention on Wikipedia's software infrastructure, focusing on fully-automated bots, semi-automated tools, and other technological actors essential to Wikipedia's normal operation. This research trajectory has clearly demonstrated that such systems have significant sociocultural consequences for Wikipedia. However, this paper gives an alternative view by showing how these software agents are contested and negotiated. Specifically, I analyze the case of a bot created to enforce what was thought to be a near-universal norm: users should sign their comments in discussion spaces. However, this auto-signature bot was subverted by Wikipedian editors, and the ensuing conflict was only resolved by the creation of new standards that were at once social and technical limits on the behavior of
humans and non-humans. Complicating the social and technological determinism's prevalent in software studies, this case illustrates that
Wikipedia must be analyzed from a hybridized, sociotechnical perspective.
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