Inverse Infrastructures
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Inverse Infrastructures

Disrupting Networks from Below

Edited by Tineke M. Egyedi and Donna C. Mehos

The notion of inverse infrastructures – that is, bottom-up, user-driven, self-organizing networks – gives us a fresh perspective on the omnipresent infrastructure systems that support our economy and structure our way of living. This fascinating book considers the emergence of inverse infrastructures as a new phenomenon that will have a vast impact on consumers, industry and policy. Using a wide range of theories, from institutional economics to complex adaptive systems, it explores the mechanisms and incentives for the rise of these alternatives to large-scale infrastructures and points to their potential disruptive effect on conventional markets and governance models.
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Chapter 6: Self-Organization in Wikis

Igor Nikolic and Chris Davis


Igor Nikolic and Chris Davis INTRODUCTION In understanding inverse infrastructures, wikis provide an interesting case. Over the past fifteen years they have developed from near obscurity to ubiquity. This is evidenced most noticeably by Wikipedia, a web-based encyclopedia that is currently the 7th most visited site on the Internet.1 It begs the question how a tool that eschews top-down control and leverages the seemingly random contributions of strangers could ever create the well-organized and increasingly comprehensive knowledge repository that Wikipedia is today. At a very simple level, a wiki is a website that allows users to freely create and edit pages, and then to make links between those pages. Most wikis have means for keeping a revision history of edits, keeping a record of who did what and when. They may also have a specific home page serving as the common entry point for the rest of the wiki. Users may have their own pages but are free to create new pages on whatever topics they wish. Communities of people using wikis may join together around particular goals, whether creating an encyclopedia or collaborating on projects for their job. From these basic characteristics, it is not apparent that much of anything could form besides a chaotic collection of pages. However, as evidenced by examples such as Wikipedia, clearly something more is happening. While wikis may begin as chaos, self-organization can and does occur that cannot be ascribed solely to the wiki-software. Rather, the software provides the platform for a social...

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