The death of Elizabeth II on Wikipedia: Fleshing out freedom through technoliberal participation online

Guilherme Moreira Fians*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While journalists performed a long-rehearsed move to announce the death of Elizabeth II on the BBC, several volunteer editors rushed to break the news in the queen’s Wikipedia article. Aside from updating verb tenses from is to was, such edits also entailed a revisionist approach, with Wikipedians seeking to shape how the British royals would be portrayed online. Tracing the negotiations and edit wars on the English-language Wikipedia surrounding this event, this article asks: to what extent does collaborative textual production subvert individual authorship in favour of knowledge co-production and collective authorship? Drawing on an online ethnography on Wikipedia’s metapages, I propose technoliberal participation as a framework to flesh out how internet users frequently perceive whatever is available online as property of the collective. Online projects such as this self-styled ‘free encyclopedia’ maximize their participants’ freedom to express themselves while setting them free from a sense of long-lasting commitment to the project. Considering the place of technoliberal participation in several online settings, I argue that the perception of digital technologies as neoliberal tools to address neoliberal problems sets out freedom as a watchword around which content authorship is not erased, but reframed, via responsibility-free, do-it-yourself media ideology.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
VolumeEarly View
Early online date31 Mar 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 31 Mar 2024


  • Digital media


Dive into the research topics of 'The death of Elizabeth II on Wikipedia: Fleshing out freedom through technoliberal participation online'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this