Incentives to Contribute in Online Collaboration: Wikipedia as Collective Action

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Incentives to Contribute in Online Collaboration: Wikipedia as Collective Action is a 2008 conference paper by Benjamin K. Johnson and published in International Communication Association, 58th Annual Conference, Montreal, Quebec.

[edit] Abstract

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia created by volunteers, and is an example of how developments in software platforms and the low cost of sharing and coordinating on the Internet are leading to a new paradigm of creative collaboration on a massive scale. The research presented here addresses the questions of why individuals choose to give away their time and effort and how the challenges associated with collective action are addressed by Wikipedia’s technologies, organization, and community. Interviews with editors of the encyclopedia were used to identify what personal gains and other motivations compel contributors, what challenges to collaboration exist, and what technological and social structures aid their ability to create a freely available repository of human knowledge. The paper suggests that the free encyclopedia is at once both a traditional instance of collective action requiring coordination and strong incentives and an instance of networked public goods that result through boundary crossing made possibly through extremely low barriers to sharing.

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