Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wikipedians and a Representative Sample

Bryant, S. L., Forte, A., & Bruckman, A. (2005). Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of participation in a collaborative online encyclopedia. In M. Pendergast, K. Schmidt, G. Mark, and M. Acherman (Eds.); Proceedings of the 2005 International ACM SIGGROUP Conference on Supporting Group Work, GROUP 2005, Sanibel Island, FL, November 6-9, pp. 1-10. Retrieved February 7, 2007, from http://www-static.cc.gatech.edu/~aforte/BryantForteBruckBecomingWikipedian.pdf

Curt mentioned that this article is heavily cited in journal articles and conference presentations related to the topic of wikis. I thought the authors provided a thought-provoking analysis of the ways in which novices become enculturated into the Wikipedia community. As individuals become move from novices to "experts" in this community, the roles shift from user to contributor to guardian. While articles tend to note the limitations of the study, the authors' disclosure in this particular piece made me question how generalizable their findings are to the average Wikipedia user.

In the Conclusions, the authors state, "Participants in this study were strategically recruited in ways that ensured awareness of community norms and active participation in community spaces. These were active, committed members." The Ns were also really small in this study - only 9 participants - and these individuals were not necessarily your typical Wikipedia user. Based on this data, it is unclear how the authors can claim that their findings may suggest an "emerging genre." For this group, it is, but expanding the claim beyond that is questionable. This is a rather brief article that is likely an abbreviated version of a much larger document. Thus, it is possible that in the editing process, details that would support the authors' claims were deleted for the sake of space. If not, the authors' conclusion is a stretch.

1 comment:

Chanitra said...

I thought this was a very interesting article. It could help people to see Wikipedia as being more than a bunch of random articles edited by random people. However, I would agree with you that only interviewing 9 people is very limiting and therefore,the results may not be representative of Wikipedia as a whole. It would make sense though that if someone writes an article they would want to keep track of the article and make sure that it is not vandalized or deleted.

It would also be interesting to study why so many people choose not to contribute to Wikipedia. While people often focus on the fact that Wikipedia is collaborative, many people only choose to use Wikipedia as an encyclopedia. Even when they find information that is incorrect, they do not change the information.