Decentralization in Wikipedia governance

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Decentralization in Wikipedia governance
Authors: Andrea Forte, Vanesa Larco, Amy Bruckman [edit item]
Citation: Journal of Management Information Systems 26 (1): 49-72. 2009.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
Database(s):
DOI: 10.2753/MIS0742-1222260103.
Google Scholar cites: Citations
Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Added on initial load
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Decentralization in Wikipedia governance is a publication by Andrea Forte, Vanesa Larco, Amy Bruckman.


[edit] Abstract

How does "self-governance" happen in Wikipedia? Through in-depth interviews with 20 individuals who have held a variety of responsibilities in the English-language Wikipedia we obtained rich descriptions of how various forces produce and regulate social structures on the site. Although Wikipedia is sometimes portrayed as lacking oversight our analysis describes Wikipedia as an organization with highly refined policies norms and a technological architecture that supports organizational ideals of consensus building and discussion. We describe how governance on the site is becoming increasingly decentralized as the community grows and how this is predicted by theories of commons-based governance developed in offline contexts. We also briefly examine local governance structures called WikiProjects through the example of WikiProject Military History one of the oldest and most prolific projects on the site.

[edit] Research questions

"How does “self-governance” happen in Wikipedia? Through in-depth interviews with 20 individuals who have held a variety of responsibilities in the Englishlanguage Wikipedia, we obtained rich descriptions of how various forces produce and regulate social structures on the site."

Research details

Topics: Policies and governance [edit item]
Domains: Information systems, Sociology [edit item]
Theory type: Analysis [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "We have been influenced

by this tradition and seek to contribute not only a description of how governance happens in Wikipedia and to account for it using organizational theory but also a view from the trenches; that is, an understanding built from the interpretations of those individuals who create and sustain that system of governance." [edit item]

Research design: Case study [edit item]
Data source: Interview responses [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: N/A [edit item]
Unit of analysis: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: N/A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: English [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"From the experiences of our participants, we constructed a thick description of Wikipedia governance at the time of our interviews and distilled from their stories a sense of how governance mechanisms have changed over time. Governance in Wikipedia resembles models of governance that have been observed in other online and offline communities, but with some interesting differences. Governance on the site relies heavily on community-generated social norms, which are articulated in artifacts of governance called “policy.” However, in a mediated environment where interactions take place via text, it seems natural that norms are articulated in textual artifacts. The lines between Lessig’s [13] laws and social norms become hazier in Wikipedia. Likewise, Ostrom’s [16] suggestion that norms are a more powerful governing mechanism for supporting collective action than rules and laws becomes complicated when the rules are explicitly intended to reflect norms. The most noticeable gap we found between Ostrom’s principles and the structure of Wikipedia governance was in the inability of WikiProject members to enforce their own local guidelines in order to maintain local standards of content production. It remains to be seen whether this trend will prove disruptive over time. Perhaps WikiProjects or some other form of local governance in the site will acquire the authority to impose sanctions on users who violate their locally devised rules. It is also possible that local enforcement will simply prove unnecessary and that Wikipedia will ultimately demonstrate an alternate model of self-governance for which theoretical justification will need to be found. Rather than suggest a prescribed community structure based on discrepancy with existing theory, we can continue to learn from the evolving practices of Wikipedians."

[edit] Comments


Further notes[edit]

Facts about "Decentralization in Wikipedia governance"RDF feed
AbstractHow does "self-governance" happen in WikipHow does "self-governance" happen in Wikipedia? Through in-depth interviews with 20 individuals who have held a variety of responsibilities in the English-language Wikipedia we obtained rich descriptions of how various forces produce and regulate social structures on the site. Although Wikipedia is sometimes portrayed as lacking oversight our analysis describes Wikipedia as an organization with highly refined policies norms and a technological architecture that supports organizational ideals of consensus building and discussion. We describe how governance on the site is becoming increasingly decentralized as the community grows and how this is predicted by theories of commons-based governance developed in offline contexts. We also briefly examine local governance structures called WikiProjects through the example of WikiProject Military History one of the oldest and most prolific projects on the site.st and most prolific projects on the site.
Added by wikilit teamAdded on initial load +
Collected data time dimensionN/A +
ConclusionFrom the experiences of our participants, From the experiences of our participants, we constructed a thick description of Wikipedia

governance at the time of our interviews and distilled from their stories a sense of how governance mechanisms have changed over time. Governance in Wikipedia resembles models of governance that have been observed in other online and offline communities, but with some interesting differences. Governance on the site relies heavily on community-generated social norms, which are articulated in artifacts of governance called “policy.” However, in a mediated environment where interactions take place via text, it seems natural that norms are articulated in textual artifacts. The lines between Lessig’s [13] laws and social norms become hazier in Wikipedia. Likewise, Ostrom’s [16] suggestion that norms are a more powerful governing mechanism for supporting collective action than rules and laws becomes complicated when the rules are explicitly intended to reflect norms. The most noticeable gap we found between Ostrom’s principles and the structure of Wikipedia governance was in the inability of WikiProject members to enforce their own local guidelines in order to maintain local standards of content production. It remains to be seen whether this trend will prove disruptive over time. Perhaps WikiProjects or some other form of local governance in the site will acquire the authority to impose sanctions on users who violate their locally devised rules. It is also possible that local enforcement will simply prove unnecessary and that Wikipedia will ultimately demonstrate an alternate model of self-governance for which theoretical justification will need to be found. Rather than suggest a prescribed community structure based on discrepancy with existing theory, we can continue to learn from the evolving practices of Wikipedians.rom the evolving practices

of Wikipedians.
Data sourceInterview responses +
Doi10.2753/MIS0742-1222260103 +
Google scholar urlhttp://scholar.google.com/scholar?ie=UTF-8&q=%22Decentralization%2Bin%2BWikipedia%2Bgovernance%22 +
Has authorAndrea Forte +, Vanesa Larco + and Amy Bruckman +
Has domainInformation systems + and Sociology +
Has topicPolicies and governance +
Issue1 +
Pages49-72 +
Peer reviewedYes +
Publication typeJournal article +
Published inJournal of Management Information Systems +
Research designCase study +
Research questionsHow does “self-governance” happen in WikipHow does “self-governance” happen in Wikipedia? Through in-depth interviews

with 20 individuals who have held a variety of responsibilities in the Englishlanguage Wikipedia, we obtained rich descriptions of how various forces produce and regulate social structures on the site.nd

regulate social structures on the site.
Revid10,730 +
TheoriesWe have been influenced

by this tradition We have been influenced by this tradition and seek to contribute not only a description of how governance happens in Wikipedia and to account for it using organizational theory but also a view from the trenches; that is, an understanding built from the interpretations of those

individuals who create and sustain that system of governance.ate and sustain that system of governance.
Theory typeAnalysis +
TitleDecentralization in Wikipedia governance
Unit of analysisN/A +
Urlhttp://dx.doi.org/10.2753/MIS0742-1222260103 +
Volume26 +
Wikipedia coverageMain topic +
Wikipedia data extractionN/A +
Wikipedia languageEnglish +
Wikipedia page typeN/A +
Year2009 +