Hello everyone, I thought some folks might be interested in:
Wikipedia, "the free encyclopedia anyone can edit," has caught the attention
of the world. Discourse about the efficacy and legitimacy of this
collaborative work abound, from the news pages of "The New York Times" to
the satire of "The Onion." So how might we understand Wikipedia
collaboration? In part 1 I argue that Wikipedia is an heir to a twentieth
century vision of universal access and goodwill; an idea advocated by H. G.
Wells and Paul Otlet almost a century ago. This vision is inspired by
technological innovation -- microfilm and index cards then, digital
networks today -- and driven by the encyclopedic compulsion to capture and
index everything known. In addition, I place Wikipedia within the history
of reference works, focusing on their (often fervent) creators, and the
cooperation, competition, and plagiarism encountered in their production.
In part 2, I conceptualize Wikipedia as a technologically mediated "open"
community; through ethnography I identify the norms, practices and meanings
of Wikipedia culture including "Neutral Point of View," good faith, and
authorial leadership. In particular, I use the metaphor of a jigsaw puzzle
to explain the operation of Wikipedia's collaborative culture: "Neutral
Point of View" ensures that the scattered pieces of what we think we know
can be joined and good faith facilitates the actual practice of fitting
them together. Finally, in part 3 I focus on the cultural reception and
interpretation of Wikipedia. I argue that in the history of reference works
Wikipedia is not alone in serving as a flashpoint for larger social
anxieties about technological and social change. I try to make sense of the
social unease embodied in and prompted by Wikipedia by way of four themes
present throughout the dissertation: collaborative practice, universal
vision, encyclopedic impulse, and technological inspiration. I show that
the discourse around Wikipedia reveals concerns about how new forms of
technologically mediated content production are changing the role and
autonomy of the individual, the authority of existing institutions, and the
character (and quality) of cultural products.