Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader

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A Wikipedia Reader



Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader Editors: Geert Lovink and Nathaniel Tkacz Editorial Assistance: Ivy Roberts, Morgan Currie Copy-Editing: Cielo Lutino Design: Katja van Stiphout Cover Image: Ayumi Higuchi Printer: Ten Klei Groep, Amsterdam Publisher: Institute of Network Cultures, Amsterdam 2011 ISBN: 978-90-78146-13-1

Contact Institute of Network Cultures phone: +3120 5951866 fax: +3120 5951840 email: [email protected] web: Order a copy of this book by sending an email to: [email protected] A pdf of this publication can be downloaded freely at: Join the Critical Point of View mailing list at:

Supported by: The School for Communication and Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences (Hogeschool van Amsterdam DMCI), the Centre for Internet and Society (CIS) in Bangalore and the Kusuma Trust. Thanks to Johanna Niesyto (University of Siegen), Nishant Shah and Sunil Abraham (CIS Bangalore) Sabine Niederer and Margreet Riphagen (INC Amsterdam) for their valuable input and editorial support. Thanks to Foundation Democracy and Media, Mondriaan Foundation and the Public Library Amsterdam (Openbare Bibliotheek Amsterdam) for supporting the CPOV events in Bangalore, Amsterdam and Leipzig. ( Special thanks to all the authors for their contributions and to Cielo Lutino, Morgan Currie and Ivy Roberts for their careful copy-editing. This publication is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0 Unported. To view a copy of this license, visit:









The INC Reader series is derived from conference contributions and produced by the Institute of Network Cultures. They are available in print and pdf form. Critical Point of View is the seventh publication in the series.


Previously published INC Readers: INC Reader #6: Geert Lovink and Rachel Somers Miles (eds.), Video Vortex Reader II, 2011 This reader continues to examine critical issues that are emerging around the success of YouTube, the rise of other online video sharing platforms, and how the moving image has become expansively more popular on the web, contributing to the culture and ecology of the internet and our everyday lives. Download a free pdf from

Geert Lovink and Nathaniel Tkacz The ‘C’ in CPOV: Introduction to the CPOV Reader

INC Reader #5: Scott McQuire, Meredith Martin and Sabine Niederer (eds.), Urban Screens Reader, 2009 This reader is the first book to focus entirely on the topic of urban screens. Offering texts from a range of leading theorists to case studies on artist projects, screen operators and curators experiences, this collection offers a rich resource for exploring the inter­sections of digital media, cultural practices and urban space. Download a free pdf from INC Reader #4: Geert Lovink and Sabine Niederer (eds.), Video Vortex Reader: Responses to YouTube, 2008. This reader is a collection of critical texts dealing with the rapidly emerging world of online video – from its explosive rise in 2005 with YouTube, to its future as a significant form of personal media. Download a free pdf from INC Reader #3: Geert Lovink and Ned Rossiter (eds.), MyCreativity Reader: A Critique of Creative Industries, 2007. This reader is a collection of critical research into the creative industries. The material developed out of the MyCreativity convention on International Creative Industries Re– search held in Amsterdam, November 2006. This two-day conference sought to bring the trends and tendencies around the creative industries into critical question. Download a free pdf from INC Reader #2: Katrien Jacobs, Marije Janssen and Matteo Pasquinelli (eds.), C’LICK ME: A Netporn Studies Reader, 2007. This anthology collects the best material from two years of debate from ‘The Art and Politics of Netporn’ 2005 conference to the 2007 ‘C’LICK ME’ festival. The C’LICK ME reader opens the field of ‘internet pornology’, with contributions by academics, artists and activists. Download a free pdf from INC Reader #1: Geert Lovink and Soenke Zehle (eds.), Incommunicado Reader, 2005. The Incommunicado Reader brings together papers written for the June 2005 conference ‘Incommunicado: Information Technology for Everybody Else’. The publication includes a CD-ROM of interviews with speakers. Download a free pdf from


ENCYCLOPEDIC KNOWLEDGE Joseph Reagle The Argument Engine


Dan O’Sullivan What is an Encyclopedia? From Pliny to Wikipedia


Lawrence Liang A Brief History of the Internet from the 15th to the 18th Century


Amila Akdag Salah, Cheng Gao, Krzystztof Suchecki, and Andrea Scharnhorst Generating Ambiguities: Mapping Category Names of Wikipedia to UDC Class Numbers


COMPUTATIONAL CULTURES R. Stuart Geiger The Lives of Bots


Nathaniel Tkacz The Politics of Forking Paths


Edgar Enyedy and Nathaniel Tkacz ‘Good luck with your wikiPAIDia’: Reflections on the 2002 Fork of the Spanish Wikipedia. 110 An interview with Edgar Enyedy Peter B. Kaufman Video for Wikipedia and the Open Web


Johanna Niesyto A Journey from Rough Consensus to Political Creativity: Insights from the English and German Language Wikipedias


Hans Varghese Mathews Outline of a Clustering Procedure and the Use of its Output


INTERVENTIONS Scott Kildall and Nathaniel Stern Wikipedia Art: Citation as Performative Act


Nicholas Carr Questioning Wikipedia


Alan Shapiro Diary of a Young Wikipedian


Florian Cramer A Brechtian Media Design: Annemieke van der Hoek’s Epicpedia


Patrick Lichty Digital Anarchy, Social Media, and WikiLeaks




POLITICS OF EXCLUSION Maja van der Velden When Knowledges Meet: Wikipedia and Other Stories from the Contact Zone


Heather Ford The Missing Wikipedians


Mark Graham Wiki Space: Palimpsests and the Politics of Exclusion


Gautam John Wikipedia in India: Past, Present and Future


Dror Kamir and Johanna Niesyto User DrorK: A Call for a Free Content Alternative for Sources. An interview with Dror Kamir


GOVERNANCE & AUTHORITY Andrew Famiglietti The Right to Fork: A Historical Survey of De/centralization in Wikipedia


Matheiu O’Neil Wikipedia and Authority


Mayo Fuster Morell The Wikimedia Foundation and the Governance of Wikipedia’s Infrastructure: Historical Trajectories and its Hybrid Character


Christian Stegbauer and Morgan Currie Cultural Transformations in Wikipedia – or ‘From Emancipation to Product Ideology’. An interview with Christian Stegbauer


Shun-ling Chen The Wikimedia Foundation and the Self-governing Wikipedia Community: A Dynamic Relationship Under Constant Negotiation


APPENDICES CPOV Conferences ‘WikiWars’ Conference I in Bangaore CPOV Conference II in Amsterdam CPOV Conference III in Leipzig


Author Biographies







Christian Stegbauer is a German sociologist and author who lectures and researches at the Institute for Social and Policy Research at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, Frankfurt. This interview was conducted over email and discusses Stegbauer’s 2006 research that tracked the increasing diversification of Wikipedia’s internal social structures. Morgan Currie: Your research on Wikipedia traces the mutually transformative relationship between users’ officially proscribed roles in Wikipedia – admins and the like – and the development of the site’s overarching ideologies since it began. To provide some context, what would you define as the original driving ideology behind Wikipedia? Christian Stegbaur: The original ideology driving Wikipedia I call ‘emancipation ideology’, and it can be said two main forms. First is the key concept that everyone can participate: if everyone were to contribute a part of her knowledge, so the idea goes, it would result in a compendium of ‘global knowledge’. As we all know, this participatory model completely revolutionizes the production of reference books, 1 which up until now operated on the principle that only trusted and selected experts produced encyclopedic content. Wikipedia turns this process completely upside down and is clearly positioned against elevating ‘expert knowledge’. Its administrators, for instance, ‘have no special position in comparison to other users – their voices count just like any other’.��This situation resembles free software movements’ ‘bottomup’ design for content. Drawing from an architectural model, Eric Raymond points out its similarity to bazaars. While cathedrals follow a singular and centrally monitored construction plan, bazaars are made up of myriad vendors, with each supplier fulfilling a small part of the demand. The multi-sectioned bazaar can often accomplish more than the cathedral, because consumers decide the components’ utility for themselves and adapt quickly. 3 Secondly, and perhaps the most important and explicit part of emancipation ideology, was proclaimed by Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales at the first international Wikimania confer-

1. Larry Sanger, ‘Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism‘, Kuro5hin, 2004, http://www. 2. Wikipedia contributors, ‘Wikipedia:Admistratoren’, Wikipedia:Administratoren, Accessed 18 February 2010. 3. Eric S. Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar. Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary, Beijing: O’Reilly, 2001.



ence in Frankfurt in 2005. 4 There he claimed that extant knowledge should be available to all without any barriers to accessibility. Research papers should no longer depend on private book collections or access to a library. Wikipedia should create equal opportunities for anyone seeking information. Given its founding principles, we might presume that Wikipedia itself is built democratically. But, of course, its critics express scepticism time and again towards Wikipedia’s production processes 5 and its claim that it arrives at knowledge via democratic consensus. 6 MC: How has this original ‘emancipation ideology’ stood the test of time if we look at the climate of content production in Wikipedia up to today? CS: Well at first glance Wikipedia’s open, social platform seems to support the emancipation ideology. And Wikipedia’s publicity efforts fiercely employ this position to raise funds. A call for donations reads: Wikipedia will allow millions of people around the globe to find out something new today. As a non-profit organization supporting a global community of freelancers, we strive to make more and improved information available in all languages for all people – free of charge and advert-free. 7 The advertisement highlights that Wikipedia is non-profit, and users are probably motivated to participate for precisely this reason. But you’re asking: does Wikipedia employ its democratic ideology in practice? Let’s go back to Jimmy Wales speaking about the future at the 2005 conference. He first stated that the principal task was completion (the number of articles at that time by far exceeded those of established encyclopedias), but then later on said the goal is improved quality. 8 You also find this shift in emphasis from quantity to quality in the invitation to new authors on the site’s main page. Originally this read, ‘Everyone can contribute a piece of knowledge – the

4. Jimmy Wales, ‘Introductory Remarks’, Wikimania Kongress, 2005, Wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Wikimania_Jimbo_Presentation.pdf. 5. E.g. Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything, New York: Portfolio, 2006; James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations, New York: Doubleday, 2004. 6. Jaron Larnier, ‘Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism’, Edge: The Third Culture, H., 30 May 2006.; Sanger (2004) 7. Wikipedia contributors, ‘Wikipedia:Spenden’,, Accessed 18 February 2010. 8. Alex Rühle, ‘Wikipedia-Fälschungen. Im Daunenfedergestöber’, [‘Wikipedia frauds. In a flurry of down feathers’],





first steps are easy!’ 9 but a month later it was changed to: ‘Good authors are always welcome here – the first steps are easy!’ 10 11 This change suggests, in contrast to emancipation ideology, not everyone is suited to write articles. To honor the requirement of quality, it is necessary to implement certain parameters for production. Also, Wikipedia is very much in the public eye, and so the more regularly and intensely society makes use of it, the more people will be concerned with quality, obviously. Mistakes have resonance and often reappear in press articles; journalists will report mistakes without bothering to investigate what caused them. Some users think that Wikipedia was better when it started out, because you could basically do what you wanted, while these days, if something out of the ordinary happens it’s reported in a weekly magazine such as ‘Der Spiegel’. The emancipation ideology is also contradicted by the different levels of user experience and knowledge and by the nascent power imbalance within the organization’s development, reflected in its selection of privileged system operators. Maintaining and administrating its enormous number of articles based on a purely ‘grass-roots constitution’, where everyone has the equal right to voice their opinion, would inevitably bring difficulties. So while emancipation ideology presents a definite advantage in recruiting new staff and collecting donations, it hampers Wikipedia’s organizational structure. MC: If quality has become the primary ideology driving content development today, can you describe how this play out in Wikipedia politics of content production? Do you see this as the inevitable result of Wikipedia’s ‘growing up’? CS: I propose the terms ‘product ideology’ to describe Wikipedia’s current emphases on quality over democratic participation. Experience definitely is a crucial factor driving this ideological transformation. Users who have been active for a while have encountered numerous disputes and vandalism. So-called ‘trolls’ add fuel to the fire by relishing in quarrelling and aggravation. IPs, or unregistered users, are often regarded as especially untrustworthy. Although newcomers are theoretically welcome, they are considered problematic for causing additional work by more experienced users who understand the negotiated standards or have experience with disputes, or maybe because of cultural differences. Experienced users who have been around for a while wind up distancing themselves from less active or new participants. Wikipedia’s structure also presents a problem when local, cultural approaches lead to conflicts during negotiations. Every user has a ‘Weltanschauung’ or position in relation to article authors, vandal hunters, agency staff, those who reply to queries concerning Wikipedia and

9. Wikipedia contributors, ‘Haupseite’, 14 July 2005, 23:58,, accessed 19 February 2010. 10. Wikipedia contributors, ‘Haupseite’, 10 August 2005, 16:16, Hauptseite, accessed 19 February 2010. 11. Wikipedia contributors,, accessed 19 February 2010.

Structural model of ideology change.

those who greet new users and take on the role of mentors, etc. 12 These positions have become necessary to govern Wikipedia, but they aren’t particularly transparent from an outsider perspective, which further aggravates new users’ understanding of the project. You might say Wikipedia’s structure particularly encourages demarcation between these positions. Figure 1, ‘Model depicting ideology transformation’, shows how the product ideology develops at the structural level as users carry out negotiations among each other. Users maybe were at first attracted to the emancipation ideology before initial activity, when they had no direct contact with the division of work that manages content within the organization. Then by making a first contribution to an article, they are placed in Wikipedia’s positional system, where their emancipation ideology contests the demands of the environment. Users’ original motives then modify during subsequent disputes and over time. The emancipation ideology rejects an operative structure, so users invested in this idea may not be as socially integrated. Paradoxically, faced with a lack of social integration or negotiating options, they have no great opportunity to bring democratic principles back into Wikipedia’s operations. Still, the emancipation ideology continues to work as a resource of inspiration for new users. MC: How exactly do users’ ideological transformations take place as they assume these operative positions? Can you also explain the assumption of these roles in more detail?

12. The term ‘position’ is used in a similar way as in role theory – a position fulfils the condition that one takes within a collective. If activities arise due to this position, then one speaks of ‘role activities’.





tive. This mutual contact and the shared perception of beginners reinforce their adaptation of the product ideology. If admins convert the product ideology into negotiation tactics, ‘normal’ users label it ‘capricious’ – administrators should on no account have more to say than other users do. But they possess access to the buttons for suspending users and deleting articles, so the formation of consensus becomes a foregone conclusion. Negotiations are often not explicitly justified, in particular those anchored in the product ideology of the negotiating admin, and the normal user may face the consequences and begin to feel affronted. It is however the so-called ‘IPs’, i.e., unregistered users, who are subjected to this the most, since most acts of vandalism are carried out by IPs. MC: You conducted research in 2006 on how this ideological division shapes and also is in turn shaped by Wikipedia’s cultural landscape. Can you elaborate on your results?

Different formal positions and their rule in ideology change.

CS: In the context of Wikipedia this question is problematic. You can’t see the precise location of negotiations in a situation that leads rapidly to a positional structure. Also, the ‘settlement’ of users into specific positions happens more quickly sometimes than others, and this inevitably leads to asynchronicities as is claimed by the model, (fig. 2). One could even go further and say that it inevitably leads to such asynchronicities. The illustration reveals formal positions within Wikipedia. These correspond with our observations that a biased structure exists among users. However, the illustration ignores what sociology calls ‘informal’ structures that are often the object of network analyses. Here, a ‘ruling class’ has emerged, composed at the top by formally endorsed administrators. Admins are selected according to a special electoral procedure; in order to stand for election, a user must have attained a certain level of trust by adhering to the norms and establishing a committed position on topics. Typically admins aren’t just in contact with one another online, but also meet in person on a more or less regular basis. They might also make use of mailing lists and chats external to Wikipedia. Due to the scope of disputes across Wikipedia, some discussions are only (or at first) carried out between these experienced users via these private mailing lists. These are ‘backrooms’, to use a political analogy, in which decisions can be ‘prepped’ before being presented to other users for democratic discussion. Though these communication channels are open to other users, they are most often used by admins to discuss ways to improve Wikipedia’s quality, and though they remain at the level of negotiations, they put the product ideology into action, which is problematic for those subscribing to the emancipation ideology. For instance, to the dismay of the ‘elite’ among the administrators and other users who have experience in article creation, they are time and again confronted with the same beginner user problems and tend to deal with beginner users from that perspec-

CS: In the current phase of Wikipedia, to summarize what I was saying, we found that cultural differences are beginning to emerge at the uppermost level of the project, where product ideology becomes a justification for activities. Conflicts develop between the few who are socially integrated and those who are formally accepted as core users (admins or participants in internal organizational decision-making) and between both of these groups and those on the periphery. Our 2006 research compared content on user pages from their original starting date to the present. 13 We noticed a transformation from emancipation to product ideology among those who had reached leadership status, but not for ones less integrated. Typical statements from a user site’s first days would be: ‘Wikipedia is a great idea’; ‘[a] never-ending encyclopedia created by many different authors’; ‘everyone should be able to exchange their knowledge for free’; ‘Wikipedia is like fulfilling a dream – a book in which everyone can write what they want’; ‘the Internet shouldn’t be regarded as a goldmine’; ‘Making information available free of charge is an important task’; ‘the project’s concept is fantastic’; ‘the idea behind Wikipedia is well worth supporting’. Six out of seven users who changed their ideological statements were core users, and five of these were administrators. Half of them deleted their opinion on emancipation ideology in the same instance they became administrators. In five out of nine cases, they expressed the product ideology, including remarks about ‘unreasonable’ people damaging the project, about endless discussions that should not take place when energy should be invested in the articles instead, and about ‘difficult’ people who are not welcome at Wikipedia. We also found phrasing such as ‘certain level of expertise is necessary for writing the articles’ or that liberal processing is the reason behind low quality contributions.

13. Evaluations carried out by Victoria Kartaschova. The group was made up of a sounding board that discussed 30 articles that were closely examined as part of the project. See Christian Stegbauer, ‘Wikipedia. Das Rätsel der Kooperation’ [‘Wikipedia: the mystery behind the cooperation’], Wiesbaden: VS, 2009, p. 279 et seq.



Two out of three users in peripheral positions who made statements about emancipation ideology at the start of their cooperation eventually backed out of Wikipedia, claiming ‘admin capriciousness’. Cultural development therefore takes place as integration becomes a requirement for levels of participation. Once integrated, user negotiations start forming local cultures, springing up where they congregate and discuss, each with their own routines and standards and mutual understanding. MC: Can you give some examples of specific conflicts that arose between these two groups – the core users and the peripheral users – and explain if and how they might be significant for Wikipedia’s future development? CS: Well, in addition to analyzing user pages, we carried out 20 guided interviews, and what became visible is how a user’s local position in Wikipedia shaped her perceptions. One line of conflict developed between OTRS and vandals. 14 OTRS workers answer questions about Wikipedia, such as complaints of article deletion or back-spacing of article content due to vandalism or posts considered not relevant. Vandalism opponents are often responsible for these flags, and they sometimes make mistakes in the process. One interviewer remarked: [...] IPs [...] often write to OTRS, and then OTRS people are obliged to reply. ‘Sorry, we didn’t mean to’ and so on. This is why there is conflict now and again between the OTRS people and the others who argue that the comments should be better [...] Also feuds arose among different positions that reveal their typical points of view about Wikipedia itself. 15 An interviewer who deals in conflict management at Wikipedia stated: ‘Yes, there are feuds between quality assurance people and vandal hunters and there are feuds between IPs and vandal hunters’. Yet another interview partner stated: ‘[...] of course conflict also exists amongst article authors who are, naturally, convinced that their article is the most important and the vandalism opponents who only care about the struggle against vandalism’. One article author even compared his defence against others with warfare: I try to make one specific group of people’s life difficult, the ones who don’t actually write articles themselves but just hang about at the discussion level. The public security forces, or at least those who feel summoned, they are the ones I want to keep occupied.

14. OTRS staff answered queries from outside of Wikipedia. See also the corresponding article about the abbreviation in Wikipedia contributors, ‘Otrs’,, accessed 28 May 2010. 15. Similar to Whites’ (1992) ‘pecking order’. See Harrison C. White, Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 1992; and Identity and Control: How Social Formations Emerge, 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008.



A classic example would of course be the article ‘xxx’ [...] something that is not considered an issue [...] during most of the discussions but rather is made fun of. I created that as a kind of trap for the mobs [...] I’d already said I would do it [...], create something that’s like a flytrap for these masters of discussion! Then I ended up defiantly arguing that [...] in terms of warfare, some mines are not made to kill people but just to blow off one of their legs. Why? Because two or three opponents are bound together in their duty. It means there’s no time left for the others. The uniformity among users with the same roles doesn’t seem conscious. Official roles are just converted into concrete expectations and then linked with operative decisions. The behavior of users is often not related to what is convenient for them, but rather defined by external pressure. Take the arbitration committee: decided cases will likely determine future decisions and traditions, and rules come into play that will not immediately lose their validity simply due to a personnel change. After a while, observers learn to anticipate the reaction of the committee. This micro-cultures constitution also contributes to improved security when dealing with disputes, since the adjudicators can trust that as soon as they make use of the negotiated tools, other allies will defend the same position when in conflict with external parties. It’s this mutual trust by others in the same position that creates the initial basis for enforcing decisions, and the recognition of arbitration verdicts depends on this. So through constant negotiations and disputes between the users, positions adopt a relatively uniform image related to others. MC: In some ways what you describe sounds like speciation – complexity and diversity developing from evolution. Is Wikipedia then growing a more homogenous ideology or a more diverse subset of cultural groups? CS: It’s true that cultural production in Wikipedia will soon concern these micro-cultures with specific behavioral and interpretational toolkits. Especially through disputes, different positions will come to understand their tools, which are further distributed and constantly emerge (or are forgotten). This is a very structuralist perspective on cultural production that closely examines culture as a process of interaction. The creation of positions caused by initially personal divisions of labor give rise to distinct cultures. These traditions are never settled, despite how they might be perceived from the outside. And again, ideology itself is a meaningful driver of activity but is always being developed and changed during disputes. Action and justification for action should not diverge too much – when it does, ideology must change alongside these changing actions. Yet in this case, we see that emancipation ideology, even if it isn’t always reflected in current practices, is still useful for fundraising and attracting new volunteers and negotiating disputes and as a part of Wikipedia’s collective memory.



REFERENCES Larnier, Jaron. ‘Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism’, Edge: The Third Culture, H., 30 May 2006. O.A. Heise. ‘Online Wikipedia-Gründer: Zehn Dinge, die frei sein müssen’, [‘Wikipedia Founders: Ten things that should be free’]. Raymond, Eric S. The Cathedral & the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary. Beijing: O’Reilly Media, 2001. Rühle, Alex. ‘Wikipedia-Fälschungen. Im Daunenfedergestöber’. [‘Wikipedia frauds. In a flurry of down feathers’]. Sanger, Larry ‘Why Wikipedia Must Jettison Its Anti-Elitism’, Kuro5hin, 2004. story/2004/12/30/142458/25. Schwartz, Aaron ‘Raw Thoughts: Who Writes Wikipedia?’, http://www.aaronsw. com/weblog/whowritesWikipedia. Sproull, Lee and Kiesler, Sara. ‘Computers, Networks and Work. Electronic interactions differ significantly from face-to-face exchanges. As a result, computer networks will profoundly affect the structure of organizations and the conduct of work’, Scientific American, (September 1991, Special Issue): 84-91. Stegbauer, Christian: Wikipedia. Das Rätsel der Kooperation. [Wikipedia: the mystery behind the cooperation] Wiesbaden: VS, 2009. Surowiecki, James. The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations. New York: Doubleday, 2004. Swidler, Ann. ‘Culture in Action: Symbols and Strategies’, American Sociological Review 51: 273-286. Tapscott, Don and Anthony D. Williams. Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything. New York: Portfolio, 2006. Wales, Jimmy. ‘Introductory Remarks’, Wikimania Kongress, 2005. Wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Wikimania_Jimbo_Presentation.pdf. Wasserman, S. and Faust, K. Social Network Analysis: Methods and Applications. Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994. White, Harrison C. Identity and Control: A Structural Theory of Social Action. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. _______. Identity and Control: How Social Formations Emerge. 2nd ed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008. Wikipedia contributors. ‘Haupseite’, 10 August 2005, 16:16. Accessed 19 February 2010. _______. ‘Haupseite’, 14 July 2005, 23:58. Accessed 19 February 2010. _______. ‘Wikipedia:Spenden’, Accessed 18 February 2010.




Introduction – Wikipedia as a New Network for Encyclopedia Production Traditional encyclopedias base their credibility on two mutually dependent institutions that have claimed authority over knowledge production, namely the academic institutions that produce ‘experts’ and the publishing houses whose practices involve contributors, reviewers, and editors whose expertise is certified by the academic institutions. The Wikipedia community 1 – a looselystructured group of individuals who share the goal of providing a free and quality encyclopedia to the public, who have developed a collective identity, and who participate in the production of Wikipedia and its self-governing structure in various ways – questions the production model of traditional encyclopedias and the claim that such a model is the only path for the public to enjoy quality reference work. Wikipedia suggests that a self-governing community consisting of dispersed and sometime anonymous individuals is also capable of providing credible reference works and has gradually convinced many that it is a viable alternative to traditional encyclopedias. Using the analytical framework offered by Michel Callon’s sociology of translation, 2 this essay explores local processes of social ordering and resistance by following the dynamic relations between various actors associated with the production of Wikipedia. The Wikipedia community defines reference works as succinct summaries of existing knowledge, a definition with which traditional encyclopedias may agree. But the Wikipedia commu-

1. Wikipedia exists in many languages; each has its own community. This paper does not deal with local policies in each project, but focuses on the relationship between the Wikimedia Foundation (WMF) and the Wikipedia community as a whole. The WMF also supports Wikipedia’s sister projects. When discussing cross-project issues, as the Wikipedia community can be negotiating with the WMF together with sister communities, I also use the term ‘Wikimedia community’. 2. The process of translation starts from problematisation; some actors seek to be indispensable to other actors by defining the nature of the problems of the latter. The former self-appoint as the focal actor and seek to lock other actors in the roles proposed to them (interessement), claiming that by implementing their proposal, the obligatory passage point – a situation through which all actors’ interests can be satisfied – will be reached. The focal actors strategize to define and interrelate the various roles assigned to the actors (enrolment) and use a set of methods, including displacing actors with mobiles – figures, graphics, and tables – to ensure that supposed spokesmen for various relevant collectivities are able to represent them and not be betrayed by them (mobilization). Michel Callon, ‘Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St Brieuc Bay’, in John Law, Power, Action and Belief; A New Sociology of Knowledge? Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1986, pp. 196-223.

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