SIM Professor Feicheng Ma Share View at World Internet Conference Wuzhen Summit
2016-12-01 10:40:45

The 3rd World Internet Conference (WIC) which brought together numbers of outstanding experts, scholars and practitioners worldwide in the fields was held in Wuzhen on November 16th -18th.

Feicheng Ma, a Senior Professor of Wuhan University (WHU), delivered a speech titled “the governance and ordering of information on the Internet” from 14:00 to 17:00 on 17th, in Zhenshui Conference Room, Wuzhen International Internet Exhibition and Convention Center.

The Speech of Professor Ma at Wuzhen Summit

Distinguished guests, good afternoon!

It is a great honor for me to be invited here at the third World Internet Conference in beautiful Wuzhen to share views on new media development. The title of my speech is “the governance and ordering of information on the Internet”.


The issues mentioned just now are big problems, now I will talk about a small one, a case, including five points.

The theme of the third WIC is meaningful, “Innovation-driven Internet Development for the Benefit of All – Building a Community of Common Future in Cyberspace”. The community of common future is actually determined by users, but how to build the community is the important point. I would share my view through a case study.

It is mentioned by several experts that the most significant consequence that the Internet has caused is the emergence of UGC. Besides, there have been PGC and RGC. No matter which GC, user or machine, their behaviors all have the same effect that the content they create will be published on the Internet. After the emergence of UGC, users generate content, that is to say, every user can be the producer, publisher, editor and communicator of information. Therefore, in order to realize Internet ordering, user is the key factor.

In term of Internet information governance and ordering, there exist two points of view: one is Internet self-governance, another is government control. The former thinks that Internet ordering can be realized on its own, by means of Internet contract, Internet capacity, its self-discipline and technology. While the latter thinks that government control on the Internet should be tightened, otherwise incorrect use of the Internet would lead to uncertainty and disordering in cyberspace. Both of the two viewpoints are important and have its followers. Today, I will focus on the former one.

The case I choose is the Internet Encyclopedia. As is known to us all, encyclopedia has already become a very important system. You may say that encyclopedia system is very idea-centralized. However actually there are lots of user disagreements on it. As a result, it is difficult for an encyclopedia system to achieve and maintain harmony. It provides users with the following functions: format editing, content adding, content revising, IP banning, version comparing and version recovering.

The reason why encyclopedia system can operate efficiently is five ideas.


First, it should be accepted that the system is an encyclopedia, which is the system objective and precondition. Second, Internet encyclopedia must stay neutral. Third, anybody is able to edit the content or even revise others’ version, as it is agreed that there is no personal copyright and no opposition to others’ revision to your entry or article. Fourth, there are codes of conduct but no hard and fast rules, which has become an important objective and characteristic of the system. The last one is quality and culture, which is also very critical agreement. Driven by these five ideas, special systems are formed, such as the rules and guidance. Users are aware of and following the rules and guidance that are formed and emphasized during the system operation.

The five ideas are not only rules but also critical objectives that establish the goals, requirements, content principles, user behaviors, behavior criterions and central culture of this online community. It is valuable that these come from users’ bottom-up discussion. The process is like this: at the beginning, founder comes up with the five ideas. Then numbers of users brainstorm and suggest such rules and codes of conduct.

Under the rules and codes of conduct, there has formed a self-order in the system. Self-order may originated in economics in early times, for instance market-oriented economy. But in encyclopedia system, its self-order results from users’ self-discipline and cooperation, which are accepted by all the users. In other words, users’ cooperation contributes to the forming of self-order system, which reflects the spirit of community culture recognition.

Thanks to the accessibility of network technology, anybody is able to edit the content. Besides, encyclopedia system upholds the value that personal contribution to the system will be rewarded, which encourages users’ efforts. Users have got an efficient platform to publish and exchange information. They cooperate with each other, submit to self-discipline, and follow the up-bottom control to maintain the system order the other way round.

It is believed that the encyclopedia system is a complex system, in which users are not only participants but also experimenters, whose behaviors will show us the evolution and trends of organization and ordering. We use the Starlogo system to conduct the experiment. The Starlogo system was developed by MIT, here in this experiment we have improved it by adding seven types of encyclopedia participants, their rule of conduct and possible behaviors to the system.


Experts offer insights during group interview at WIC (the first from the right:Professor Feicheng Ma)

On the screen window we design, there are seven types of participants and different colors that indicate different meanings. The background is black; any participants conduct a behavior which will result in a corresponding color dot on the black background. Red indicates the content is correct, white means it is incorrect, yellow innovative. Sky blue, blue and green represents three kinds of user interests. As users groups change, their interest catalogues will be increased or divided further.

We put the participants in the experiment system. There are codes of conduct, the value of the experiment and experts painting red in the system. It must be mentioned the difference between traditional encyclopedia and Internet encyclopedia: the traditional one is written by experts, while the latter’s authors and editors are users themselves. So there is a doubt that the Internet encyclopedia written by users is lack of reliability and full of mistakes. A British scholar did research on the correct rate comparison between traditional encyclopedia and Internet encyclopedia. He sampled from an Internet encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia Britannica and found that the correct rate of the Internet one is equivalent to that of the authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica. The search has proved the reliability of Internet encyclopedia.

On the screen, experts paint red on the background, publishing correct content. The brown figures are browsing users who do not edit the entries but just read the content, which still has certain effect on the system.

When the experiment system operates 100 times, we can see the screen is so colorful having several kinds of colors on it. There is innovative color of yellow, correct color red and incorrect white. Moreover, green, blue and sky blue are written by three types of users with different interests. Let the system continues to operate till more than 2000 times. It is found that the colorful background has turned into a red one.

In the experiment, we just put only one expert who publishes correct content in the system. In other words, there are few experts but a lot of free users or participants, who behave under the codes of conduct, produce correct content as experts do, and make the system move to the state of order. Therefore, it can be concluded that Internet information ordering can be realized by means of users’ self-discipline and the guidance of conduct control.

Although experts produce the correct content, the number of them is few. In addition, the function of IP banning and page locking will also limit the amount of original correct content on the system. Innovative participants are the vital source of the system. However, average users are the largest group in the system and make the greatest contribution to the system. Though they may produce incorrect content at the beginning, they will continuously revise and modify the entries until they become correct. Thus average users play the most important role in the self-ordering of encyclopedia system.

The experiment has directly showcased the process and mechanism of system evolution, which vividly displays the self-ordering of encyclopedia system. Here comes the conclusion that from the perspective of user, the ordering and governance of information can be realized through users’ self-discipline and self-ordering. I hope my speech can offer a little help on the production, edition and management of Internet information.

Thank you for listening!


Introduction of Professor Feicheng Ma

Professor Ma, Senior Professor of Humanities and Social Sciences of Wuhan University, Doctor Supervisor , said,” Information Science and Information Management is my life, I love what I have done in my entire life.”

He is Director of Center for the Study of Information Resources of Wuhan University (CSIR), which is a key university-based national research institute of humanities and social sciences of the Ministry of Education (MOE) in China, a member of China MOE Social Science Committee, associate director of the review panel of NSSFC Department of Library, Information Science and Archival Management, member of the review panel of NSFC Department of Management Science, Vice Chairman of the board of directors of China Science and Technology Information Society, Vice Chairman of the board of directors of China Information Economics Society, Vice Chairman of Association for Information Systems (AIS) China Branch (CNAIS).

He was appointed senior researcher of High-Tech Innovation Management Research Center at Berkeley College (USA), working on research and education of information resources planning and management, knowledge network and big data analysis etc. In recent 20 years, Professor Ma has published more than 10 books and more than 100 academic papers, undertaken about 20 research projects, and received 20 more awards.

Introduction of World Internet Conference

The Third World Internet Conference, an international event initiated and held by China, took place in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province from Nov 16 to 18, 2016.

With a theme of “Innovation-driven Internet Development for the Benefit of All – Building a Community of Common Future in Cyberspace”, the conference focuses on international cooperation on Internet, and highlights China’s Internet development and governance.

From the perspectives of information reliability, arrangement feasibility and user honesty, the conference organizer has sent out invitations to guests to showcase their experience and research works concerning “building a more reliable Internet”, including responsibility and obligation of websites, Internet media and users, technology and rules, organization and mechanism, so as to improve reliability of information sources, efficiency of information communication, users’ information literacy and international exchanges.