|Collaborative authoring on the web: a genre analysis of online encyclopedias|
|Authors:||William Emigh, Susan C. Herring|
|Citation:||HICSS '05 Proceedings of the Proceedings of the 38th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS'05) - Track 4 - Volume 04 : . 2005.|
|Publication type:||Conference paper|
|Google Scholar cites:||Citations|
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This paper presents the results of a genre analysis of two web-based collaborative authoring environments, Wikipedia and Everything2, both of which are intended as repositories of encyclopedic knowledge and are open to contributions from the public. Using corpus linguistic methods and factor analysis of word counts for features of formality and informality, we show that the greater the degree of post-production editorial control afforded by the system, the more formal and standardized the language of the collaboratively-authored documents becomes, analogous to that found in traditional print encyclopedias. Paradoxically, users who faithfully appropriate such systems create homogeneous entries, at odds with the goal of open-access authoring environments to create diverse content. The findings shed light on how users, acting through mechanisms provided by the system, can shape (or not) features of content in particular ways. We conclude by identifying sub-genres of web-based collaborative authoring environments based on their technical affordances.
"These observations give rise to further questions, namely, how similar or different are entries produced in the two types of systems? Which system gives rise to better quality entries? What social processes underlie the production of "good" entries, and how do they shape the conventions of the online encyclopedia genre? Do sites such as Wikipedia and Everything2, which differ in their authoring and editorial mechanisms, produce communicative content that can be characterized as belonging to a single genre?"
|Topics:||Readability and style|
|Theories:||"In this study we have observed that the technical
affordances of online collaborative authoring systems interact with social norms to (re)produce genre structures, consistent with the claims of Giddens' structuration theory as applied to digital environments by Yates and Orlikowski (1992) and DeSanctis and Poole (1994). If our theory of the impact of "good" users is correct, we might expect to find evidence of increasing formality and homogeneity across the lifespan of a Wikipedia entry, as well as differences in formality between beginning and experienced contributors, but relatively little change across the lifespan of an Everything2 entry."
|Research design:||Content analysis|
|Data source:||Wikipedia pages|
|Collected data time dimension:||Cross-sectional|
|Unit of analysis:||Article|
|Wikipedia data extraction:||Live Wikipedia|
|Wikipedia page type:||Article|
"The results of the four-way comparison reveal a continuum of formality and standardization, with the traditional encyclopedia and the interactive discussion at opposite extremes. Wikipedia and Everything2 differ significantly from one another, with Wikipedia towards the formal, standardized end, and Everything2 towards the informal, variable end of the continuum. Surprisingly, Wikipedia is statistically indistinguishable from the print encyclopedia in terms of the formality features measured in this study. These findings suggest that what we have heretofore been considering as the genre of online encyclopedia is not a uniform set of communicative practices. Wikipedia and Everything2 have functional and structural characteristics in common: they aim to be repositories of general knowledge, they are available online, their contents are searchable, their entries make use of hyperlinks, they are created by multiple non-expert authors who form a community around the practice of creating content for the site, and they are consulted (to varying degrees) by Internet users seeking information on a wide range of topics. These commonalities justify considering the two sites as exemplars of a single genre, according to the standard definition of a genre as recurrent communication characterized by a common purpose, structures, and participant roles (cf. Yates & Orlikowski, 1992)."
""Wikipedia and Everything2 differ significantly from one another, with Wikipedia towards the formal, standardized end, and Everything2 towards the informal, variable end of the continuum. Surprisingly, Wikipedia is statistically indistinguishable from the print encyclopedia in terms of the formality features measured in this study." p. 9"