Disrupting Networks from Below
Edited by Tineke M. Egyedi and Donna C. Mehos
6. Self-Organization in Wikis 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...
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