Collaboration in Online Communities: Exploring Finnish Wikipedia
Doctoral thesis, Peer reviewed
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Online communities have risen to a great social and economic importance during the last two decades. Many online communities are oriented towards content production, and Wikipedia is one of the most prominent instances of these. These require both a front narrative for fulfilling their content-producing purpose and a back narrative for facilitating collaboration. Wikipedia has been the subject of an abundance of research, but collaboration has not been a popular research topic. Hence, the following research question will be addressed: What characterizes collaboration in online communities? This study explores Finnish Wikipedia in order to find out what types of collaboration occur in wiki activities, both within and beyond the wiki platform. Fourteen in-depth interviews were conducted with active participants. This data was analyzed in order to find out activities involving non-article content. The most usual non-article contents are article talk pages, user talk pages and various kinds of ”Wikipedia namespace” contents. Collaborative activities occurring outside the Wikipedia platform were also explored, and enactments, non-enactments, and conflicts were revealed. 10,000 ”Recent Changes” edits were collected and a genre analysis was conducted on the edits in the ”Wikipedia namespace”. Various community-level collaborative activities were identified, and were roughly categorized into established processes and emergent reflective discourse. The following contributions are proposed in this thesis. Collaboration is theorized through the framework of front and back narratives. The back narrative is divided into four types: collocated, user-centric, community-wide, and external. Five modes of collaboration are identified: planned, feedback, deliberative, stigmergic and vanguard. Finally, design implications and research limitations are discussed.