Writing the Revolution
Wikipedia and the Survival of Facts in the Digital Age
184 pp., 6 x 9 in, 7 figures
- Published: November 15, 2022
A close reading of Wikipedia's article on the Egyptian Revolution reveals the complexity inherent in establishing the facts of events as they occur and are relayed to audiences near and far.
Wikipedia bills itself as an encyclopedia built on neutrality, authority, and crowd-sourced consensus. Platforms like Google and digital assistants like Siri distribute Wikipedia's facts widely, further burnishing its veneer of impartiality. But as Heather Ford demonstrates in Writing the Revolution, the facts that appear on Wikipedia are often the result of protracted power struggles over how data are created and used, how history is written and by whom, and the very definition of facts in a digital age.
In Writing the Revolution, Ford looks critically at how the Wikipedia article about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution evolved over the course of a decade, both shaping and being shaped by the Revolution as it happened. When data are published in real time, they are subject to an intense battle over their meaning across multiple fronts. Ford answers key questions about how Wikipedia's so-called consensus is arrived at; who has the power to write dominant histories and which knowledges are actively rejected; how these battles play out across the chains of circulation in which data travel; and whether history is now written by algorithms.
“With a refreshing narrative style, Ford pulls you into the action of fact creation on Wikipedia and shows like no one else what is at stake in doing so. A new benchmark for Wikipedia research.”
Nathaniel Tkacz, Reader, University of Warwick; author of Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness
“Writing the Revolution is a ground-breaking study of contemporary digital historiography. Written with immense critical flair, this book invites us to think about how great and minor events of our age are being framed.”
Stephen Coleman, Professor of Political Communication, University of Leeds
“This book powerfully shows how social, economic, and political facts are forged in the knowledge factory of Wikipedia. It is impossible to understand how histories are made in the contemporary world without letting Ford take you on this fascinating journey.”
Mark Graham, Professor of Internet Geography, University of Oxford