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Imagining the Wikipedia community: what do Wikipedia authors mean when they write about their 'community'?
Abstract This article examines the way Wikipedia auThis article examines the way Wikipedia authors write their ‘community’ into being. Mobilizing concepts regarding the communicative constitution of communities, the computer-mediated conversation between editors were investigated using Grounded Theory procedures. The analysis yielded an empirically grounded theory of the users’ self-understanding of the Wikipedia community as ethos-action community. Hence, this study contributes to research on online community-building as it shifts the focus from structural criteria for communities to the discursive level of community formation.e discursive level of community formation.
Added by wikilit team Yes  +
Collected data time dimension N/A  +
Comments "Users primarily understand their collecti"Users primarily understand their collective as an ethos-action community tying community membership not to admission procedures but to the personal acceptance of a set of moral obligations and rules of conduct. " "People can be active in Wikipedia without being a member of the community because it takes more than edits to be a Wikipedian – membership is based on compliance." Wikipedia-l mailing listd on compliance." Wikipedia-l mailing list
Conclusion It emerged that the users primarily undersIt emerged that the users primarily understand their collective as an ethos-action community tying community membership not to admission procedures but to the personal acceptance of a set of moral obligations and rules of conduct. The editors’ commitment materializes in actions that are, in turn, evaluated, rewarded or sanctioned. The right action and the right thinking then become crucial for determining the community’s boundaries. The normative standards guiding the members’ behaviour in the projects are principles like ‘Assume good faith’ and the ‘Neutral Point of View’ (Reagle, 2010) as well as explicit policies (Wikipedia, 2010d). In fact, while a shared set of normative beliefs and common activities are standard features of sociological definitions of communities, the present study showed what form they take in the routines of a particular community-building process. Hence, the study adds to the existing literature regarding the analysis of online community-building in two ways: First, it demonstrated how a rigorous GT analysis can be employed not only to classify data but to discover the contextual formation of a collective’s shared self-understanding as community irrespective of any structural or functional criteria. Second, the study showed how an inquiry into the vocabulary of ‘community’ sheds light into the collectivization of loosely connected individuals in an online environment via computer-mediated communication. The Wikipedia authors constituted their particular self-understanding and self-description as ethos-action community by eliminating other ways of thinking and talking about the collective, its activities and relationship as well as by demarcating the differences with other groups. Such boundaries encapsulate, as Cohen (1985: 12) remarked, the identity of a community. Turning to Wikipedia, it can be argued that the autonomous authors are made amenable to administrative actions by a language of ‘community’ which ties community membership to editors. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that some of the facets of the theory resemble Ostrom’s (1990) principles of successful self-governance regimes guarding commons resources. That Wikipedia’s governance can be interpreted in the light of Ostrom’s work has already been demonstrated in some earlier studies (Forte et al., 2009; Viegas et al., 2007). Yet, this investigation additionally shows that governance principles like monitored performances, gradual punishment or nested hierarchies have also found their way into the shared self-understanding of the Wikipedia community. Building on that, research should concentrate on integrating different approaches to investigate online governance. While the present study highlighted social meanings and normative obligations it only took a glance at the ways governance is enacted via the formation of hierarchies or the specification of rules.compliance with a set of norms and values – orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The decision to join the Wikipedia community by practicing benevolent engagement rests with the authors themselves who have to embrace the local and global rules so to become a trusted member. The Wikipedia community binds its members in a network of allegiance. The project’s self-governance is, in this respect, attained by self-governing editors. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that some of the facets of the theory resemble Ostrom’s (1990) principles of successful self-governance regimes guarding commons resources. That Wikipedia’s governance can be interpreted in the light of Ostrom’s work has already been demonstrated in some earlier studies (Forte et al., 2009; Viegas et al., 2007). Yet, this investigation additionally shows that governance principles like monitored performances, gradual punishment or nested hierarchies have also found their way into the shared self-understanding of the Wikipedia community. Building on that, research should concentrate on integrating different approaches to investigate online governance. While the present study highlighted social meanings and normative obligations it only took a glance at the ways governance is enacted via the formation of hierarchies or the specification of rules. Consequently, Wikipedia contributors do not only have to learn to use the software tools, but they also have to acquire the appropriate beliefs, values, common understandings and practices (Bryant et al., 2005). People can be active in Wikipedia without being a member of the community because it takes more than edits to be a Wikipedian – membership is based on compliance.edian – membership is based on compliance.
Data source Documents  +
Google scholar url http://scholar.google.com/scholar?ie=UTF-8&q=%22Imagining%2Bthe%2BWikipedia%2Bcommunity%3A%2Bwhat%2Bdo%2BWikipedia%2Bauthors%2Bmean%2Bwhen%2Bthey%2Bwrite%2Babout%2Btheir%2B%27community%27%3F%22  +
Has author Christian Pentzold +
Has domain Information systems + , Sociology +
Has topic Community building + , Culture and values of Wikipedia +
Peer reviewed Yes  +
Publication type Journal article  +
Published in New Media & Society +
Research design Grounded theory  +
Research questions This article examines the way Wikipedia auThis article examines the way Wikipedia authors write their ‘community’ into being. Mobilizing concepts regarding the communicative constitution of communities, the computer-mediated conversation between editors were investigated using Grounded Theory procedures. The analysis yielded an empirically grounded theory of the users’ self-understanding of the Wikipedia community as ethos-action community. Hence, this study contributes to research on online community-building as it shifts the focus from structural criteria for communities to the discursive level of community formation.e discursive level of community formation.
Revid 10,813  +
Theories The analysis was based on Grounded Theory The analysis was based on Grounded Theory procedures (GT: Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Strauss and Corbin, 1990). This qualitative methodology was chosen for two reasons: First, its strength lies in the ‘analytical power to theorize how meanings, actions, and social structures are constructed’ (Charmaz, 2006: 151). Consequently, it lends itself to an interpretative examination of social meanings. Second, although GT is first of all a methodology and not a definite method, it nevertheless enabled valid and transparent interpretations of the data through a systematic set of procedures combining the reciprocal and continuous collection, coding and comparison of the material. The analysis was conducted with the support of the CAQDAS Atlas.ti which has specifically been designed in accord with GT methodology. Different to the linear composition of the following report, the analytical work moved back and forth between its different stages. A second tension is posed by the report’s formal restrictions and the methodological necessity to capture the fullness of the analytical renderings and to provide vivid descriptions in order to convey the credibility of the discovered theory. In presenting such a theory it does not suffice to state the final results because the ‘canon for judging the usefulness of a theory is how it was generated’ (Glaser and Strauss, 1967: 5). Here, this demand has been addressed in the following manner. Firstly, the material is introduced. Secondly, I will reflect on the coding procedures discussing the major categories while omitting a thorough overview of the complete set of codes and categories. To substantiate the argument, examples are given. Thirdly, building on that, the empirically grounded theory of the Wikipedia community is presented. In GT, data collection is neither based on the complete population of cases nor on a representative partial sample. Instead, theoretical sampling is introduced as a set of procedures connecting the coding with a continuous sampling of further incidents. Thus, the sampling is not a self-contained step of analysis before the proper examination. Both are rather understood as interconnected and cumulative phases. The study relied on all three coding and corresponding sampling procedures (Strauss and Corbin, 1990: 180–193). First, open sampling was employed to discover as many potentially relevant categories as possible. Consequently, the collection was rather indiscriminative: all relevant messages of the second month in each succeeding year were sampled so to include the mails sent in February 2001, April 2002, June 2003, and so forth. During the progressing analysis, additional material was selected according to open sampling and, in later phases, also to axial and discriminative sampling procedures.5 However, not all occurrences in these monthly collections were automatically and completely sampled, but their incorporation into the corpus was always based on their theoretical relevance. Hence, to say that a total of 27 months with 1660 occurrences was part of the sample is no meaningful statement because the coding did not aim at a complete evaluation of all instances. Instead, the judgement when to stop sampling was based on the development of the theory The last step of the analysis focused on elaborating the connections between the categories and subcategories. Thus, the theory emerged as ‘concepts related through statements of relationship, which together constitute an integral framework that can be used to explain or predict phenomena’ (Strauss and Corbin, 1998: 15). In order to discover the set of negotiated meanings the authors established in writing about themselves, the analysis was based on GT procedures because they allowed for interpreting and piecing together the meanings produced in the authors’ conversations resulting in an inductive theory of the Wikipedia community. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that some of the facets of the theory resemble Ostrom’s (1990) principles of successful self-governance regimes guarding commons resources. That Wikipedia’s governance can be interpreted in the light of Ostrom’s work has already been demonstrated in some earlier studies (Forte et al., 2009; Viegas et al., 2007).(Forte et al., 2009; Viegas et al., 2007).
Theory type Analysis  +
Title Imagining the Wikipedia community: what do Wikipedia authors mean when they write about their 'community'?
Unit of analysis N/A  +
Url http://nms.sagepub.com/content/13/5/704  +
Wikipedia coverage Main topic  +
Wikipedia data extraction N/A  +
Wikipedia language Not specified  +
Wikipedia page type N/A  +
Year 2011  +
Creation dateThis property is a special property in this wiki. 15 March 2012 20:28:56  +
Categories Community building  + , Culture and values of Wikipedia  + , Information systems  + , Sociology  + , Publications  +
Modification dateThis property is a special property in this wiki. 30 January 2014 20:28:46  +
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