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Debating Information Control in Web 2.0: The Case of Wikipedia vs. Citizendium

Olof Sundin and Jutta Haider

(Submission #33)


Summary

Wikipedia (WP), arguably the best known Web 2.0 project, is continually being scrutinised for the quality of its content. The question addressed in this paper concerns which notions of information, of collaborative knowledge creation, of authority and of the role of the expert are drawn on when information control in WP is discussed. This is done by focusing on the arguments and counter-arguments made in the debates surrounding the launch of Citizendium (CZ), a proposed new collaborative online encyclopeadia. While WP claims not to attribute special status to any of its contributors, CZ, intends to assign a decision-making role to subject experts. The empirical material for the present study consists of two online threads available from Slashdot, one of the earliest online community bulletin boards for discussing technology related new developments. One thread “A Look inside Citizendium” dates from September (153 postings), the second one “Co-Founder Forks Wikipedia” from October 2006 (382 postings). The textual analysis of these documents was carried out through close interpretative reading. Five themes, related to different aspects of information control in WP and CZ, emerged: 1.information types, 2.information responsibility, 3. information perspectives, 4. information organisation, 5. information provenience & creation. Each theme contains a number of different positions. It was found that these positions not necessarily correspond with the different sides of the argument. Instead, at times the fault lines run through the two camps.

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