Joseph Reagle's Wikipedia Drafts

These are some of the drafts that went into my dissertation on Wikipedia.

Open Content Communities
In this brief essay I sketch the characteristics of an open content community by considering a number of prominent examples, reviewing sociological literature, teasing apart the concepts of open and voluntary implicit in most usages of the term, and I offer a definition in which the much maligned possibility of "forking" is actually an integral aspect of openness.
Four Short Stories about the Reference Work
Many histories can be written of the reference work. There is the chronicle of technical and institutional forces intertwined in the production of the book: of conquest, co-option, trade wars, empire and religion. Also, there's the drama of clashing conservative and progressive impulses: the expectation for the humble reference work to fixate the social order, or to shatter it and form a new realization of social possibility. There are tales of great and eccentric personalities: the perseverance of men who dedicate their lives to the tasks of organizing everything known about the universe. Finally, there is the story of collaboration: of people standing on the shoulders of giants and of plagiarism.
A Case of Mutual Aid: Wikipedia, Politeness, and Perspective Taking
This paper explores the character of "mutual aid" and interdependent decision making within the Wikipedia. I provide a brief introduction to Wikipedia, the key terms associated with group decision making, and the Wikipedia dispute resolution process. I then focus on the cultural norms (e.g., "good faith") within Wikipedia that frame participation as a cooperative endeavor. In particular, I argue that the "neutral point of view" policy is not a source of conflict, as it is often perceived to be, but a resolution shaping norm. However, the naive understanding that this policy is about an unbiased neutrality is also problematic. I conclude by identifying some notions from negotiation literature that may be inappropriate or require adaptation to the Wikipedia case.
Is the Wikipedia Neutral?
Claims of neutrality and accusations of bias are common themes of contemporary discourse about the media, government, education, and technology. In this essay I extend earlier work on the collaborative culture of Wikipedia (an on-line and free encyclopedia) to specifically focus on the fundamental but often misunderstood notion of neutrality.... This essay is inspired by earlier debates on neutrality of technical standards, literature on bias in technical systems, my present fascination with this Wikipedia norm and a change in my belief that while an important concept, the label of neutrality was an unfortunate coinage in the Wikipedia context.
Wikipedia's Heritage: Vision, Pragmatics, and Happenstance
This essay explores development of globally available digital reference works from their first imaginings to contemporary cases. My hope in undertaking such a project is to identify technical and social aspects of digital reference work production that can contribute to an understanding of a prominent contemporary exemplar, the Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia. Why did it take over 50 years for the vision of "[w]holly new forms of encyclopedias" (Bush 1945: 8) to be realized? The answer, presented in this essay, was that it required an alignment of a coherent goal, technical practicality, and serendipity: vision, pragmatics, and happenstance. ...
Do as I Do: Leadership in the Wikipedia:
In this paper I consider how notions of leadership operate in collaborative on-line cultures. In particular, I consider the seemingly paradoxical, or perhaps merely playful, juxtaposition of informal tyrant-like titles (e.g., "Benevolent Dictator") in otherwise seemingly egalitarian voluntary content production communities such as the Wikipedia. To accomplish this, I first introduce the Wikipedia as an open content community and review existing literature on the role of leadership in such communities. I then relate ethnographic and archival data on how leadership is understood, performed, and discussed in the Wikipedia community. I conclude by integrating concepts from existing literature and my own findings into a theory of leadership and note other communities and leaders against which this theory could be tested. ...
In Good Faith: the Collaborative Culture of Wikipedia
The Wikipedia is not merely an online encyclopedia; while the Web site is useful, popular, and permits anyone to contribute, the site is only the most visible artifact of an active community. Unlike previous reference works which stand on library shelves distanced from the institutions, people, and discussions from which they arose, the Wikipedia is a community and the encyclopedia is a snapshot of its continuing conversation. That conversation reflects and, of course, shapes the Wikipedia culture. For example, conversations are supposed to abide by the cultural norm of Wikiquette (Wikipedia 2006w1), which includes the principles of "assume good faith" (Wikipedia2006ag) and "please do not bite the newcomers" (Wikipedia2005pdn). Such Wikipedia norms and their relationship to the technology, discourse, and vision of a free on-line encyclopedia prompt me to ask, what factors contribute to the development and maintenance of this community's collaborative—"good faith" — culture?