Wed 5th March 2008, 1:49pm
Wheel-Warring in WikiDrama, like political give and take everywhere, follows an oft-observed model. The model presented here applies in general to all WikiDrama at any level of intensity, from a simple reversion to clamorous kerfuffle and brouhaha. It has 5 stages.
1. Mimetic Desire for One's Point of View
One editorial clique establishes their Point of View as an editorial objective and other editors react with a countervailing drive for their complementary Point of View.
2. Mimetic Rivalry for More Prominence
Now the editorial cliques begin competing for prominence. Whatever winning strategies emerge, the less experienced editors copy them. To survive in Wikipedia, an editor must become deft at gaming the labyrinthine rules of the system.
Skandalon is a Greek word that means "taking the bait." It's the root of "slander" and "scandal." In the rivalry for editorial dominance, if one side can goad the other into committing a foul, the opposing editor can be neutralized or even eliminated from the game. Thus begins a Wiki-War, fought on the editorial battlefield, in which the goal is to demolish and disempower the other side. Skandalon is what makes it so hard not to take the bait, so hard just to walk away. It's so easy to bicker and goad. The give and take escalates.
4. Scapegoating and Alienation
Eventually one editor crosses some arbitrary threshold of civility where another Admin feels compelled to intervene. It's essentially random which side crosses first, but often it's the more disgruntled minority, which uses harsher language to maintain parity. Whichever side goes over the arbitrary line becomes singled out, and the others who kept their trolling below threshold are sorely offended. They rudely chastise the miscreant, sending him or her to the Oblivion of Time Out.
5. Consensual, Irrevocable, and Sanctioned Banishment
To appease the rabble, the ArbCom determines the standards of civility and visits banishment and page-blanking on the outcast. Then everyone issues a sigh of relief. This escalates the polarization to the next higher level of examination in online culture.
The 5-stage pattern repeats at all levels of Wikidrama and for all rivalries and editorial competitions. The most vicious attacks are reserved for people highest up in the power structure. Jimbo Wales, ArbCom, and Wikipedia Review all follow this model. Well, actually, almost everyone follows it.
At every point in a battle of WikiWits, the dynamic is somewhere in the 5-stage model, which repeats endlessly.
The only way to arrest the Wikidrama is to adopt the conscious goal of de-escalation and run the model backwards toward constructive dialogue. Giving up the desire to be dominant, avoiding the temptation of skandalon, avoiding Requests for Comments, avoiding authorized and sanctioned banishment.
A common type of outcast is a person who bears witness and speaks the truth to power.
Wikidrama, left to itself tends to escalate over time.
We need to think our way out of verbal vendettas by mindfully running the model backward, de-escalating editorial power struggles and moving toward open dialogue.
At every stage of the model, we need to be mindful of the dynamic we are caught up in, and consciously elect to run the model in reverse.
With this Systems Theoretic Model of the dynamic structure of argument, debate and dialogue, we can discover the optimal strategy to drive the system in reverse toward better practices and more accurate articles.
It's pure science, pure reason, and pure common sense. These methods of thought all reach the same insightful solution to getting along.
It's time we learned it so that we can discontinue the mindless practice of Wiki-flogging ourselves to death. It's time we learned, reviewed, reflected, and meditated on the Mimetic Reconciliation Model.