Wikipedia: The Canary in the Coal Mine for Online Collaboration
Gerald C. Kane
Friday, February 2, 2018
10:30 AM – noon
Speakman Hall Suite 200
Many companies are increasingly seeking to use online communities for collaboration and innovation. Perhaps the most robust of these is Wikipedia, the open online encyclopedia that hosts millions of articles in hundreds of languages. Wikipedia preserves the entire history of collaboration that has taken place over the past 15 years, providing a remarkable environment for studying online collaboration and knowledge creation. While companies may not be interested in creating a Wikipedia-type platform, per se, the lessons learned in such a massive and robust online community can provide important insights for how to support innovation within companies (i.e. among employees) or across company boundaries (i.e. between employees and customers).
This presentation provides an overview of a 5-year research program investigating collaboration on Wikipedia using multiple methods (funded by National Science Foundation CAREER Award #0953285). While several of these papers have already been published in top journals, several are still under review. Nevertheless, the individual papers often overlook the overarching logic and insights provided by the integrated research program. Taken together, these studies suggest that collaboration on Wikipedia can be understood as a complex adaptive system (CAS), which are defined by several features, such as non-linearities, co-evolution, self-organization, and emergent dynamics.