Transboundary E-waste

A Detour Though the Wikiweb II.

The visualization above shows the geographic location of all servers hosting links contained in the Wikipedia pages for (click here to open in new window):It is strikingly evident how geographically uneven and concentrated the linking behavior is of these Wikipedia pages. Almost no links contained within the Wikipages above refer to information hosted on servers outside of the United States or Western Europe. This despite the fact that the predominant concerns expressed about transboundary movements of e-waste refer to 'hotspots' outside of these regions.

The logged edit histories and revisions of Wikipedia articles in combination with the platform’s Core Content Policies of presenting a neutral POV, ensuring verifiability of statements, and the exclusion of original research result in Wikipedia articles functioning as a record of the development of societal controversies as they emerge (Borra et al., 2015b; Wikipedia contributors, 2017). The mediation of conflicting POVs between Wikipedia users serves as a proxy debate to the controversy the article itself is looking to document (Borra et al., 2015b). Therefore, exploring the revision histories of these articles for disagreements between users serves to inform the debates surrounding electronic waste at large.

The main “Electronic waste” article has been included in the Contropedia platform demo created by Borra et al. (2015). Contropedia compares the disagreeing and substantive edit activity of sentences where wiki links are included to determine a controversy score for links within the article (Laniado et al., 2015). Using Contropedia, the top twelve wiki links within the “Electronic waste” deemed to be the most controversial between 2006-2016 from the article were selected. The edit histories for each link were then analyzed for substantive disagreements to identify debates between the actors editing the article. The remaining Wikipedia articles from the corpus had edit histories that were short enough to manually cull for disagreeing and substantive edits between actors. These edits were then classified depending on the disagreement. During this analysis, three meta-issues related to the twelve wiki links from Contropedia and the other Wikipedia articles were identified.

A visualization of the edit history of the Wikipedia page for "Electronic waste" can be found here.

Issue 1: How effective is e-waste related policy?
Within the edit histories of the Wikipedia articles, the effectiveness of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive in driving the development of European Union’s e-waste policies is contested. Similarly, the amount of federal legislation governing e-waste management within the United States and China is also questioned. References to the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban Amendment’s effectiveness (signatories versus ratification, enforcement) have been removed and restored in relation to the successes and shortcomings of e-waste regulations in multiple nations.

Issue 2: What qualifies as e-waste?
E-waste’s definition sees multiple changes with regards to the ownership status and its perceived value. Edits contest between whether selling or discarding electronic equipment qualifies it as e-waste.

Issue 3: Perceived dangers of e-waste disposal and processing
There have been multiple reverts over the biological risks and their severity to workers arising from e-waste processing. In particular, the heavy metal content of e-waste and potential risks of chemical leaching from landfills are points of contention.

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