Submissions/The Blackout of Wikipedia

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This is a rejected submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no.


Title of the submission
Legitimacy and Efficacy: The Blackout of Wikipedia
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Ayelet Oz
E-mail address
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Harvard Law School, Harvard University
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

The week of January 18th 2011 marked a milestone in the history of cyberspace. A combination of online communities and corporate websites derailed major legislation through decentralized collaborative protest. Just before Congress was scheduled to vote on two bills aimed at combating online copyright infringement - the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP act - the tech industry and major collaborative projects joined hands in an effort to stop the legislation, and initiated massive online protest that peaked on January 18th, 2011. Following the protest, Washington backed off and two days later the legislator announced they would postpone the legislation.

Commentators marked the protest as presenting a new model of politics, which amplifies the power of individuals and embeds greater legitimacy and accountability. Therefore, it is important to understand in depth the dynamics that led to this action, and especially to its paradigmatic core - the blackout of Wikipedia.

Unlike utopist descriptions, the debate preceding the blackout did not follow Wikipedia’s open and anarchic decision-making system. The initiative for the action came from Wikipedia’s founder, Jimmy Wales, and was closely led by massive involvement of the Wikimedia Foundation staff. Nevertheless, decision-making did not come down to nothing but traditional autocratic methods of top-down orders. It was rather a delicate play between autocratic agenda-setting and holding authority back, between charismatic leadership and broad community consensus. This back-and-forth between narrowing and broadening the discussion, relying on alternate means of legitimation, will stand at the center of this paper. It marks not only a new process for decision-making in collaborative projects, but also a new framework for understanding the internal dynamics of large-scale online anarchic projects.

  • WikiCulture and Community; Research, Analysis, and Education
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
Special request as to time of presentations

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  1. Pete F. (talk) This is a vastly important topic. I have not seen whether there are similar proposals. I would rather see a panel discussion with varying perspectives, if that is possible; but certainly, this presentation sounds valuable, and should go forward if it cannot be combined with others.
  2. CT Cooper · talk 19:47, 22 March 2012 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  3. --Jan Engelmann (WMDE) 12:17, 4 April 2012 (UTC)
  4. Add your username here.