p1-bryant - Becoming Wikipedian Transformation of...

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Becoming Wikipedian: Transformation of Participation in a Collaborative Online Encyclopedia Susan L. Bryant, Andrea Forte, Amy Bruckman College of Computing/GVU Center, Georgia Institute of Technology 85 5 th Street, Atlanta, GA, 30332 [email protected]; {aforte, asb}@cc.gatech.edu ABSTRACT Traditional activities change in surprising ways when computer- mediated communication becomes a component of the activity system. In this descriptive study, we leverage two perspectives on social activity to understand the experiences of individuals who became active collaborators in Wikipedia, a prolific, cooperatively-authored online encyclopedia. Legitimate peripheral participation provides a lens for understanding participation in a community as an adaptable process that evolves over time. We use ideas from activity theory as a framework to describe our results. Finally, we describe how activity on the Wikipedia stands in striking contrast to traditional publishing and suggests a new paradigm for collaborative systems. Categories and Subject Descriptors J.7 [ Computer Applications ]: Computers in Other Systems – publishing. General Terms Design, Human Factors Keywords Wiki, Wikipedia, Community, Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Activity Theory 1. INTRODUCTION Shocking things happen online. Consider the scope of extreme activities that can and do emerge in the comparatively unregulated landscape of online environments, where inhibitions are reduced [11], social norms are emergent [22, 26], and regulating behavior is still difficult at best [15]. One unexpected scenario is that of individuals around the globe coming together, unsolicited, to contribute their knowledge and provide volunteer editorial services to create a high-quality, freely-accessible information resource. It is at best counterintuitive that such a resource, written by committee, where anonymous contributions are acceptable, and anyone anywhere can edit any content at any time, could be accurate by any standards. Yet that is precisely what has happened at wikipedia.org. Permission to make digital or hard copies of all or part of this work for personal or classroom use is granted without fee provided that copies are not made or distributed for profit or commercial advantage and that copies bear this notice and the full citation on the first page. To copy otherwise, or republish, to post on servers or to redistribute to lists, requires prior specific permission and/or a fee. GROUP’05 , November 6–9, 2005, Sanibel Island, Florida, USA. Copyright 2005 ACM 1-59593-223-2/05/0011...$5.00. New forms of computer-supported cooperative work have sprung from the World Wide Web faster than researchers can hope to document, let alone understand. In fact, the organic, emergent nature of Web-based community projects suggests that people are leveraging Web technologies in ways that largely satisfy the social demands of working with geographically distant collaborators. In order to better understand this phenomenon, we examine how several active collaborators became members of the extraordinarily
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