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LRDG: Narratives and Evaluation in 'The Murder of Stephen Lawrence' Wikipedia Article

Date: 15 January 2013 Time: 1 - 2 pm

Venue: C89, County South

Ruth Page, University of Leicester, will be speaking on:

The content produced in Wikipedia articles must comply with the core principle of Neutral Point of View (Myers 2010). However, the apparent 'neutrality' of perspective is determined by the selection of 'reliable sources' used to verify Wikipedia articles, sources which reflect and constitute their ideological contexts of production and reception.

This paper will examine the evolution of a particular Wikipedia Article: 'The Murder of Stephen Lawrence'. The article was first authored in 2003 and continues to be revised in 2012, with over 1000 revisions available in the page history. Through a narrative analysis of selected article revisions, this paper will show that the tellability of the article is determined by reports of the events which circulated over time in the mainstream media. While the initial stub first authored in 2003 narrated the events of Stephen Lawrence's murder as an unevaluated Recount (Martin and Plum 1997), the revised article current in 2012 is rich in evaluative statements (Labov 1972). The added evaluation influences the structural sequence of the narrated events, transforming the earlier Recount to a plot-like pattern of a 'fully formed narrative', and signals the importance of the Lawrence case within wider national agendas which continue to contest racial inequality and injustice.

I argue that the development of the narratives within the Stephen Lawrence article is not neutral, but shaped by wider agendas of news value (Fowler 1986). In addition, the architectures and archiving principles of Wikipedia are also shaped by ideological principles which surpress counter-narratives and controversy in order to promote a superficial appearance of consensus.

Event website:


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: David Barton

Organising departments and research centres: Educational Research, Lancaster Literacy Research Centre, Linguistics and English Language

Keywords: Digital literacies, Evaluation, Narratives


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