Wikipedia is the largest and most popular online encyclopaedia, built by the collaboration and coordination of its users. Anyone can edit a page and improve the articles, as long as three core content policies of “neutral point of view”, “verifiability” and “no original research” are respected. Despite Wikipedia’s purpose to build contents by reaching consensus among different positions, sometimes a balance is hard to reach when dealing with complex and controversial issues.

Family planning is a typical example of the large number of techno-scientific controversies that are present in our society, because of its strong connection to political principles, regulations and scientific evidences, but also related to ideological values and religious beliefs. In this context, criticism and controversies arise from different perspectives and the arena of the debate takes place. As long as different persons with opposing opinions are present in our society and since Wikipedia is “the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit”, the platform mainly reflects all these different points of view. Situations in which actors disagree like Wikipedia constitute the best setting for the application of the cartography of controversies with its combination of stability and change, consensus and disagreement. Thanks to digital media the observation of the interactions among actors can easily be performed: Internet, and therefore Wikipedia, it’s not juts an object of study but has recently become a source of data, methods and techniques about society and culture.

Thanks to its increased popularity and relevance as a new form of knowledge generated by its users but also to its features of fully accessible data, Wikipedia has received much attention from the scientific and academic community. Some studies investigate its continuous growth, others the motivation and quality of users’ contribution while others the ways in which they collaborate among each others. A group of the considered studies also focused on conflict and controversy in Wikipedia rather than on consensus and agreement.

Here finds its origin and motivation the analysis of the article “Family planning” of the English version of Wikipedia as a case study for understanding the development of controversies on the web. By looking at the “revision history” page, a detailed picture of the phenomena is given by mining the data with the help of digital methods and the use of visualization guided by experts’ opinion. First, it’s explained how time and density of edits can be measured for understanding the development of an article and how different types of edits can also affect it. Investigating the different types of users  shows their behaviour towards the topic, their roles and their relationship between each other. Then, it’s given a picture of the evolution of the article’s structure through the Table of Content (TOC) with the most discussed and spoiled issues of the controversy. In the end, with a semantic glossary of the articles connected to the one analysed, a broader overview of the topic is also given.

The methods and procedures applied to this case study can be considered an experimental model for exploring the complex and dynamic setting of Wikipedia. They can be applied to other controversial topics to give new insight to Wikipedia researchers, social scientists and anthropologists, but also to topic experts and even general public. From a wider point of view, in this project  shows the importance and the role of visualization as means to produce new knowledge and information that can be applied to various academic fields.