July 8, 2005
A small scale study of Wikipedia
Lawler, Cormac. “A small scale study of Wikipedia.” Wikisource. 24 Jan. 2005. http://wikisource.org/wiki/A_small_scale_study_of_Wikipedia. 8 July 2005.
This small, quantitative, grounded-theory study seeks to examine the motivations and community experiences of Wikipedians. While the study is not representative (11 questionnaires were analyzed; the Wikipedia community is thousands-strong), it does reveal interesting data. It does not provide any information about the demographic makeup of the community, since the author neglected to include questions concerning gender, age, nationality, or professions.
Participants tended to view Wikipedia as very much a community, reporting a sense of ‘welcome,’ consubstantiality, and mutual aid. Consensus and dissensus were reported as vital to the ‘joint end product,’ although consensus was not always seen as a positive attribute; once consensus has been reached, it may seem ‘impossible for an outsider to contribute.’ Still, users reported a general sense of individual satisfaction tied to their roles in the project.
Participants seem to often refer to the process in anarchic terms:
- (I like) the strange fact that anarchy can sometimes create beautiful results.
- It’s also a reasonably friendly community... despite the anarchy nature ofits setup.
Anonymous contributions were also discussed, and users have mixed opinions about it. A general desire for a way to determine identity was expressed (‘a better way of knowing who’s who’). They also remain concerned about authority and reliability.
Lawler echos boyd and Shirky in calling Wikipedia ‘both a process and a product,’ and concludes that the project is a success in terms of both production and community development.