Digging Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia as digital cultural heritage gateway and site.

Pentzold, C., Weltevrede, E., Mauri, M., Laniado, D., Kaltenbrunner, A. & Borra, E. (2017). Digging Wikipedia. The online encyclopedia as digital cultural heritage gateway and site. ACM Journal on Computing and Cultural Heritage, 10(1), Art. 5.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is both a cultural reference to store, refer to, and organize digitized and digital information, as well as a key contemporary digital heritage endeavor in itself. Capitalizing on this dual nature of the project, this article introduces Wikipedia as a digital gateway to and site of an active engagement with cultural heritage. We have developed the open source and freely available analysis architecture Contropedia to examine already existing volunteer user-generated participation around cultural heritage and to promote further engagement with it. Conceptually, we employ the notion of memory work, as it helps to treat Wikipedia’s articles, edit histories, and discussion pages as a rich resource to study how cultural heritage is received and (re)worked in and across languages and cultures. Contropedia’s architecture allows for the study of the negotiations around and appreciation of cultural heritage without assuming an unchallenged and universal understanding of cultural heritage. The analysis facilitated by Contropedia thus sheds light on the contentious articulation of perspectives on tangible and intangible heritage grounded by conflicting conceptions of events, ideas, places, or persons. Technologically, Contropedia combines techniques based on mining article edit histories and analyzing discussion patterns in talk pages to identify and visualize heritage-related disputes within an article, and to compare these across language versions. In terms of digital heritage, Contropedia presents a powerful tool that opens up a core resource to cultural heritage studies. Moreover, it can form part of a conceptually grounded, technically advanced, and practically enrolled infrastructure for public education that opens up the dynamic formation of both knowledge about cultural heritage and new forms of digital cultural heritage that show a considerable amount of friction.