Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors

Littlejohn, Allison and Hood, Nina (2018). Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. Information Research, 23(1), article no. paper 784.



Introduction. We report on the experiences of a group of people as they become Wikipedia editors. We test Benkler’s (2002) theory that commons-based production processes accelerate the creation of capital, questioning what knowledge production processes do people engage in as they become editors? The analysis positions the development of editing expertise within broader social contexts to explore how the act of editing supports other types of commons-based production that foster and support and counteract issues of empowerment, equality and social justice.

Method. Nine editathon participants were interviewed using a semi-structured interview transcript.

Analysis. In a first round of analysis, data was coded into content areas. Then thematic coding examined: (1) the actions of participants as they became Wikipedia editors and the values and sentiments they ascribed to the role; (2) the emerging beliefs and emotions around becoming an editor and the agency and actions triggered by perceived responsibilities.

Results. The study surfaced a range of emotions and beliefs editors developed as they took on editing responsibilities, ascribed different values to their new role. These distinct values and beliefs perceived led editors to engage in distinctive forms of action. Some participants developed a sense of empowerment to shape societal agendas, viewing editing as a form of continued activism.

Conclusion. The findings pinpoint actions people engage in as they move into the editing role, highlighting the values they ascribe to editing. The study also surfaced the perceived responsibilities associated with editing as well as the emotions and beliefs associated with these obligations.

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