Normative behaviour in Wikipedia

CPM Report No.: 08-190
By: Chris Goldspink, Bruce Edmonds and Nigel Gilbert
Date: 29th May 2008

To be presented at:  the 4th International Conference on e-Social Science


This paper contributes to the debate about governance behaviour in on-line communities, particularly those associated with Open Source. It addresses evidence of normative self-regulation by analysing the discussion pages of a sample of Wikipedia Controversial and Featured articles. The assumption is that attempts by editors to influence one another within these pages will be revealed by their use rules and norms as well as the illocutionary force of speech acts. The results reveal some unexpected patterns. Despite the Wikipedia community generating a large number of rules, etiquettes and guidelines, explicit invocation of rules and/or use of wider social norms appears to play a small role in regulating editor behaviour. The emergent pattern of communicative exchange appear not well aligned either with these rules or with the characteristics of a coherent community and nor is it consistent with the behaviour needed to reach agreement on controversial topics. The paper concludes by offering some tentative hypotheses as to why this behaviour may be as it is. 

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