Social self-regulation in computer mediated communities: the case of Wikipedia

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Social self-regulation in computer mediated communities: the case of Wikipedia
Authors: Christopher Goldspink [edit item]
Citation: International Journal of Agent Technologies & Systems 1 (1): 19-33. 2009 January. United States, California.
Publication type: Journal article
Peer-reviewed: Yes
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Google Scholar cites: Citations
Link(s): Paper link
Added by Wikilit team: Added on initial load
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Social self-regulation in computer mediated communities: the case of Wikipedia is a publication by Christopher Goldspink.


[edit] Abstract

This article documents the findings of research into the governance mechanisms within the distributed on-line community known as Wikipedia. It focuses in particular on the role of normative mechanisms in achieving social self regulation. A brief history of the Wikipedia is provided. This concentrates on the debate about governance and also considers characteristics of the wiki technology which can be expected to influence governance processes. The empirical findings are then presented. These focus on how Wikipedians use linguistic cues to influence one another on a sample of discussion pages drawn from both controversial and featured articles. Through this analysis a tentative account is provided of the agent-level cognitive mechanisms which appear necessary to explain the apparent behavioural coordination. The findings are to be used as a foundation for the simulation of normative 'behaviour. The account identifies some of the challenges that need to be addressed in such an attempt including a mismatch between the case findings and assumptions used in past attempts to simulate normative behaviour.

[edit] Research questions

"This paper documents the findings of research into the governance mechanisms within the distributed on-line community known as Wikipedia. It focuses in particular on the role of normative mechanisms in achieving social self-regulation. The following questions are canvassed through this research.  What processes appear to operate in computer mediated organizations which enable them to be, in effect, self-regulating?  How consistent are the findings with established theories for understanding norms and governance, particularly in on-line environments?  What alternative hypotheses are there which appear to explain the phenomena and which can provide the foundation for future research?"

Research details

Topics: Featured articles, Policies and governance [edit item]
Domains: Information systems [edit item]
Theory type: Explanation [edit item]
Wikipedia coverage: Main topic [edit item]
Theories: "Governance theory: In broad terms the debate is often dichotomised with economics derived theories (Agency and Transaction Cost) on one side and sociological theories (stewardship) on the other (see J. H. Davis, D. Schoorman, & L. Donaldson, 1997; Donaldson & Davis, 1991)

Agency theory derives from neo-classical economics and shares the foundational assumption of agent utility maximization. Advocates argue that many productive transactions involve principals who delegate tasks to agents to perform on their behalf (Donaldson & Davis, 1991). Critics argue that not all human decisions are made on the basis of self-interest. Sociological and psychological models of governance posit various alternatives: some remain committed to assumptions of rational action and goal seeking, while others address issues of power or various forms of intrinsic motivation, including a desire to conform to social norms. These latter positions generally form the basis of theories of stewardship (J. H. Davis, D. F. Schoorman, & L. Donaldson, 1997) Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) (Coase, 1993, 1995; Williamson, 1996) is concerned with the relative merit of alternative governance arrangements for differing production environments. Oliver Williamson (1985), a key contributor, states ‘The choice of governance mode should be aligned with the haracteristics of the transaction…’. Principals are presented with a continuum of possible ways of trying to achieve effective regulation from open markets to hierarchy. Both of these are seen as imposing costs (agency costs for hierarchy and transaction costs for markets). The aim is to combine them to achieve an optimum balance between these costs. This ‘balancing’ implies a top down rational decision making role for institutional managers. More recently two additional categories of governance have been added to the TCE family – ‘networks’ and ‘bazaars’" [edit item]

Research design: Discourse analysis, Statistical analysis [edit item]
Data source: Wikipedia pages [edit item]
Collected data time dimension: Cross-sectional [edit item]
Unit of analysis: User [edit item]
Wikipedia data extraction: Live Wikipedia [edit item]
Wikipedia page type: Discussion and Q&A [edit item]
Wikipedia language: Not specified [edit item]

[edit] Conclusion

"The more detailed and specific behavioural etiquette seems to have little influence on the overall character and style of interaction.  The overall quality of interaction of editors falls short of the range and quality of communicative style characteristic of a community and that would be consistent with what one would expect, given the nature of the task. 14  Most regulation is achieved without the need for frequent explicit invocation of rules or norms. Rather, behaviour seems to accord to a convention which editors quickly recognise and conform to (or bring to the Wikipedia) and which minimally accommodates what needs to be done to satisfy the task in a context of potentially heterogeneous personal goals.  There was a lack of evidence of active negotiation of expectations and standards and convergence of behaviour towards a norm. Within the discussion pages there appeared to be little obvious norm innovation, evolution, adaptation or extension. This suggests that on first encounter with Wikipedia, editors read a set of cues as to what constitutes appropriate or acceptable behaviour and then accommodate it. Alternatively the order observed may be largely attributable to the prior socialisation of participants with local norms and rules playing a very minor part in supporting task regulation.  While there is a difference between controversial and featured sites this is minimal and the quality of the interaction cannot explain the difference in status. Similarly there appeared to be little in the subject matter of the two groups of articles which would explain the difference – both contained subject matter which was contestable and subject to significantly diverse opinion."

[edit] Comments

"Neither the subject matter nor the quality of conversation can explain the status of the article as it is featured or controversial."


Further notes[edit]

Facts about "Social self-regulation in computer mediated communities: the case of Wikipedia"RDF feed
AbstractThis article documents the findings of resThis article documents the findings of research into the governance mechanisms within the distributed on-line community known as Wikipedia. It focuses in particular on the role of normative mechanisms in achieving social self regulation. A brief history of the Wikipedia is provided. This concentrates on the debate about governance and also considers characteristics of the wiki technology which can be expected to influence governance processes. The empirical findings are then presented. These focus on how Wikipedians use linguistic cues to influence one another on a sample of discussion pages drawn from both controversial and featured articles. Through this analysis a tentative account is provided of the agent-level cognitive mechanisms which appear necessary to explain the apparent behavioural coordination. The findings are to be used as a foundation for the simulation of normative 'behaviour. The account identifies some of the challenges that need to be addressed in such an attempt including a mismatch between the case findings and assumptions used in past attempts to simulate normative behaviour. attempts to simulate normative behaviour.
Added by wikilit teamAdded on initial load +
Collected data time dimensionCross-sectional +
CommentsNeither the subject matter nor the quality of conversation can explain the status of the article as it is featured or controversial.
ConclusionThe more detailed and specific behaviouralThe more detailed and specific behavioural etiquette seems to have little

influence on the overall character and style of interaction.  The overall quality of interaction of editors falls short of the range and quality of communicative style characteristic of a community and that would be consistent with what one would expect, given the nature of the task. 14  Most regulation is achieved without the need for frequent explicit invocation of rules or norms. Rather, behaviour seems to accord to a convention which editors quickly recognise and conform to (or bring to the Wikipedia) and which minimally accommodates what needs to be done to satisfy the task in a context of potentially heterogeneous personal goals.  There was a lack of evidence of active negotiation of expectations and standards and convergence of behaviour towards a norm. Within the discussion pages there appeared to be little obvious norm innovation, evolution, adaptation or extension. This suggests that on first encounter with Wikipedia, editors read a set of cues as to what constitutes appropriate or acceptable behaviour and then accommodate it. Alternatively the order observed may be largely attributable to the prior socialisation of participants with local norms and rules playing a very minor part in supporting task regulation.  While there is a difference between controversial and featured sites this is minimal and the quality of the interaction cannot explain the difference in status. Similarly there appeared to be little in the subject matter of the two groups of articles which would explain the difference – both contained subject

matter which was contestable and subject to significantly diverse opinion.
subject to significantly diverse opinion.
Conference locationUnited States, California +
Data sourceWikipedia pages +
Google scholar urlhttp://scholar.google.com/scholar?ie=UTF-8&q=%22Social%2Bself-regulation%2Bin%2Bcomputer%2Bmediated%2Bcommunities%3A%2Bthe%2Bcase%2Bof%2BWikipedia%22 +
Has authorChristopher Goldspink +
Has domainInformation systems +
Has topicFeatured articles + and Policies and governance +
Issue1 +
MonthJanuary +
Pages19-33 +
Peer reviewedYes +
Publication typeJournal article +
Published inInternational Journal of Agent Technologies & Systems +
Research designDiscourse analysis + and Statistical analysis +
Research questionsThis paper documents the findings of reseaThis paper documents the findings of research into the governance mechanisms within the distributed on-line community known as Wikipedia. It focuses in particular on the role of normative mechanisms in achieving social self-regulation.

The following questions are canvassed through this research.  What processes appear to operate in computer mediated organizations which enable them to be, in effect, self-regulating?  How consistent are the findings with established theories for understanding norms and governance, particularly in on-line environments?

 What alternative hypotheses are there which appear to explain the phenomena and which can provide the foundation for future research?
rovide the foundation for future research?
Revid10,947 +
TheoriesGovernance theory: In broad terms the debaGovernance theory: In broad terms the debate is often dichotomised with economics derived theories (Agency and Transaction Cost) on one side and sociological theories (stewardship) on the other (see J. H. Davis, D. Schoorman, & L. Donaldson, 1997; Donaldson & Davis, 1991)

Agency theory derives from neo-classical economics and shares the foundational assumption of agent utility maximization. Advocates argue that many productive transactions involve principals who delegate tasks to agents to perform on their behalf (Donaldson & Davis, 1991). Critics argue that not all human decisions are made on the basis of self-interest. Sociological and psychological models of governance posit various alternatives: some remain committed to assumptions of rational action and goal seeking, while others address issues of power or various forms of intrinsic motivation, including a desire to conform to social norms. These latter positions generally form the basis of theories of stewardship (J. H. Davis, D. F. Schoorman, & L. Donaldson, 1997) Transaction Cost Economics (TCE) (Coase, 1993, 1995; Williamson, 1996) is concerned with the relative merit of alternative governance arrangements for differing production environments. Oliver Williamson (1985), a key contributor, states ‘The choice of governance mode should be aligned with the haracteristics of the transaction…’. Principals are presented with a continuum of possible ways of trying to achieve effective regulation from open markets to hierarchy. Both of these are seen as imposing costs (agency costs for hierarchy and transaction costs for markets). The aim is to combine them to achieve an optimum balance between these costs. This ‘balancing’ implies a top down rational decision making role for institutional managers.

More recently two additional categories of governance have been added to the TCE family – ‘networks’ and ‘bazaars’
the TCE family – ‘networks’ and ‘bazaars’
Theory typeExplanation +
TitleSocial self-regulation in computer mediated communities: the case of Wikipedia
Unit of analysisUser +
Urlhttp://lifeandmind.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/5.pdf +
Volume1 +
Wikipedia coverageMain topic +
Wikipedia data extractionLive Wikipedia +
Wikipedia languageNot specified +
Wikipedia page typeDiscussion and Q&A +
Year2009 +