Governance, organization, and democracy on the Internet: the iron law and the evolution of Wikipedia
|Governance, organization, and democracy on the Internet: the iron law and the evolution of Wikipedia|
|Citation:||Sociological Forum 24 (1): 162-192. 2009 March.|
|Publication type:||Journal article|
|Google Scholar cites:||Citations|
|Added by Wikilit team:||Added on initial load|
|Article:||Google Scholar BASE PubMed|
|Other scholarly wikis:||AcaWiki Brede Wiki WikiPapers|
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This study examines whether the Iron Law of Oligarchy exists in Wikipedia by analyzing how a key policy of the website regarding verifiability evolved into its current form. The study describes the decision-making processes of Wikipedia and shows that there are many factors preventing or slowing the development of oligarchy on Wikipedia. The study provides data advancing theoretical concepts related to the Iron Law of Oligarchy and the evolution of virtual communities and organizations; results and knowledge gained can also improve Wikipedia policies related to verifiability. Michels wrote: “who says organization, says oligarchy.” I argue that we should follow this with a caveat: “who says wiki-organization, says no to oligarchy.”
"This study should contribute to understanding if Michels’s Iron Law holds true for the new organizational models developing on the Internet. It should shed light on new ways of decision making in the collaborative, open-source, wiki-using projects and explain the decision-making processes of Wikipedia itself. The study answers the following questions. Was this policy a brainchild of several individuals, or thousands? Was it accepted by the community through a debated consensus, was it an unchallenged and eventually codified tradition, or was it imposed by certain editors or groups?"
|Topics:||Policies and governance|
|Wikipedia coverage:||Main topic|
|Theories:||"The study provides data
advancing theoretical concepts related to the Iron Law of Oligarchy and the evolution of virtual communities and organizations; results and knowledge gained can also improve Wikipedia policies related to verifiability."
|Data source:||Wikipedia pages|
|Collected data time dimension:||Longitudinal|
|Unit of analysis:||Edit, User|
|Wikipedia data extraction:||Live Wikipedia|
|Wikipedia page type:||Article:talk, Policy, Discussion and Q&A|
|Wikipedia language:||Not specified|
"There are few indicators of an oligarchy having power on Wikipedia, and few trends of a change in this situation. The high level of empowerment of individual Wikipedia editors with regard to policy making, the ease of communication, and the high dedication to ideals of contributors succeed in making Wikipedia an atypical organization, quite resilient to the Iron Law. Although Wikipedia is not immune from the Iron Law, it has evolved crucial characteristics in its organizational culture—such as the small power distance and dedication of all its members to the project’s goal—that steer it away from the ‘‘inevitable destiny’’ of becoming an oligarchy. Growing bureaucracy is balanced by extensive enfranchisement of editors in policy making. Subconsciously, Wikipedia’s editors are constantly tweaking the site’s policies, so far successfully coping with the site’s growing popularity, retaining their idealistic goals, and preventing a rise of any noticeable oligarchy. The WP:V is one of the cores of Wikipedia; however, study of how other policies and encyclopedic content itself developed and whether they are affected by the Iron Law would certainly prove valuable. Analysis of the Wikipedia’s governance (How democratic is the site really?), the quality of public discourse, similarities to a social movement, importance of the networks in the Wikipedia community, or even a thorough analysis of Wikipedia editor demographics—all offer ample room for further studies."
""Wikipedia’s editors are constantly tweaking the site’s policies, so far successfully coping with the site’s growing popularity, retaining their idealistic goals, and preventing a rise of any noticeable oligarchy" p.189"