Authorship, authority and citizenship: discourses of participation in open content communities

Alevizou, Panagiota (2008). Authorship, authority and citizenship: discourses of participation in open content communities. In: 51st Annual Conference of the International Association of Media and Communications Researchers, 20-25 Jul 2008, Stockholm, Sweden.


This paper explores discourses of participation in two open content communities claiming to produce alternative, collaborative and free encyclopaedias (Wikipedia, Citizendium). Drawing on discourse analysis and a series of interviews, this paper argues that both communities frame participation as cultural citizenship and this is done in an ambivalent way: as a trope of collaborative conduct for the production of complex ‘public goods’, but also as a strategy for evaluating and hierarchizing social performance in the public production of knowledge. On the one hand, voluntary contribution and peripheral participation are enticed in both material substrates and discursive tropes inviting for casual contributions; on the other hand, definitions of participants become stratified through practices of community ‘expertise’ that involves awareness of generic conventions as well as rights and responsibilities in the peer production process. Although both these dimensions re-articulate novel notions of ‘professionalism’, found in commercial projects, they too crystalise novel tensions in the forms of expertise the moblise with significant implications on the notion of cultural citizenship that their institutional practices of participation entail

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