Submissions/Knowledge and Power: Can "BOLD, revert, discuss cycle" protect minorities?

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is a rejected submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.


Title of the submission

Knowledge and Power: Can "BOLD, revert, discuss cycle" protect minorities?

Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)


Author of the submission

Rui Mascarenhas

E-mail address


Hibrido Mutante

Country of origin


Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)


Personal homepage or blog

Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

We all know that if in tyranny or oligarchic regimes the main issue is how to protect majorities from minority discretionary decisions, in democracy we are faced with the problem of defending minorities form discretionary prejudices of majorities. This is a big problem that philosophical approaches like those from Habermas and Rawls have to face when appealing to processes where the majority has the final vote. These authors have found these critics from philosophers and social scientists and Wikipedia can learn with the debate.

In my academic investigation I’m trying to understand how the voluntary process in Wikipedia can be able to protect minorities, and if, in fact, that is possible. Can it? (If an article is protected by a "tribe", how can the system guarantee that a minority voice can be heard among the majority? Does digital environment really change anything about that? If not why? If yes, how and how can we guarantee it). If its voice is considered "abnormal" does it really have a chance? Is the criterion of "verifiable" content enough? A criterion that is only centered on "truth" and "facts" as if that could be distinct from "worthy", valuable", "interesting"(Bourdieu and his team have done a profound work about this in the beginning of the 90's: "Les Miserables - an incredible work very well supported in terms of field work, interviews, statistics - the voice of the unheard inside the "welfare state" and how the system is deaf to them. They don't even know "how to talk properly", how to write, how to articulate their own revolt). These are issues that some social scientists are interested in when discussing “procedural”" and "consensual" (liberal, "analytical", "methodological individualism", “communication action”) approaches in social systems in general (and "crowd sourcing”, “wisdom of the crowds", "collaborative filter", "autopoiesis", in particular).

We all know there is no "perfect system", we all know that, if there is something interesting about wikipedia is that it is learning (but it can also be crystallizing status quos). We must avoid a certain "pathos of denouncement” common to some social scientists. But we must also avoid voluntarism and naïf approaches (so common in a certain "anarchic-digitals" and neoliberals) that seems to forget symbolic violence and that every time there is "knowledge", there are arguments and references to "truth" (if there is truth it is the battle for truth, said Bourdieu) there are "power relations", every time a "conceptual difference", a "categorical difference", a "theoretical distinction" is institutionalized as a norm, the normal way, the shared normality, you can detect an hierarchic relation (a "practical" one) being established between the two notions (and someone, somewhere will be losing... some say). Maybe only naïf philosophers believe in pure heads (on one side) and pure hands (on the other) when they think about "how to do things with words" and about "speech acts".

To define what is and what isn't "common sense" and "official" and "normal" (the definition, the description, the relative value, what matters and what doesn't, what is pertinent and what isn't) is not only a theoretical gesture but also a political one with practical consequences.

Theory and Methods that are blind to all relation between knowledge and power are of small pertinence to the social sciences. And this has big epistemological consequences (and, I would say, philosophical ones ;)

I believe we must discuss these kinds of subjects also at the "administrator level". How administrators in the wikipedia can handle these kind of disputes? They really become a judge without jurisprudence to support them. An administrator decides here about "what is "normal""nonfiction standard discourse", what is "transgression", "parasitism”, etc. Specially, in all subjects related with relations between "power and knowledge". We all know that criteria are not are not "things found in nature, but laws, symbolic inventions, or conventions, institutions that, in their very normality as well as in their normativity, entail something of the fictional". ;)

Wikipedia is wonderful to make some research about this (not only what is happening but has happened and how it keeps and rewrites its history in each article and "article networks"). It's beautiful in fact (it takes Bourdieu's, Foucault's, Deleuze's, Derrida's theoretical framework and makes it visible for everyone to see it happen :)

For people studying these subjects this can be one of the best tools to develop "field work". It is happening everywhere around and we can get it in digital support. The researcher can easily do "qualitative research", discourse analyses, statistic linguistics, profiling (it’s a fact: we can’t really have "socio-demographics in the traditional way). And it is happening in articles about philosophy, mathematics, and physics as much as religion, politics, economy, sociology, "cultural studies").

My presentation would try to give an humble contribution to this discussion and on how we could model an academic investigation in this area (Bourdieu, Deleuze, Foucualt, Derrida giving the philosophical background to model the hypotheses, the functions, independent and dependent variables, the patterns expected from majorities, minorities and administrators, etc).

Cases to be presented and studied as a first approach would focus on content that could be 100% verifiable so the majority couldn't argue that the new contributions weren’t True (it's VERY important that the community can't really argue about truth but only about "importance", pertinence", usefulness”, “ethical consequences”: Not “facts” but “values”). It’s not truth that is important to highlight in this kind of approach but value judgments and how the community rationalize their own behavior to be able to exterminate unsuited facts that frighten their core beliefs (core paradigms – like in Kuhn). In the first approach the objective is not "to explain why it happens" but to find patterns of how it happens.

  • WikiCulture and Community; Research, Analysis, and Education
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
I would love, but it's to expensive. If the community is interested in diiscussing this subject I will "get a way"
Slides or further information (optional)
Power Point
Special request as to time of presentations

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--Hibrido Mutante (talk) 23:06, 14 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]

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