3 September 2014

[Book] An Ethnography of Wikipedia

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Common Knowledge? An Ethnography of Wikipedia
By Dariusz Jemielniak
Stanford University Press
2014, 312 pages


With an emphasis on peer–produced content and collaboration, Wikipedia exemplifies a departure from traditional management and organizational models. This iconic “project” has been variously characterized as a hive mind and an information revolution, attracting millions of new users even as it has been denigrated as anarchic and plagued by misinformation. Has Wikipedia’s structure and inner workings promoted its astonishing growth and enduring public relevance?

In Common Knowledge?, Dariusz Jemielniak draws on his academic expertise and years of active participation within the Wikipedia community to take readers inside the site, illuminating how it functions and deconstructing its distinctive organization. Against a backdrop of misconceptions about its governance, authenticity, and accessibility, Jemielniak delivers the first ethnography of Wikipedia, revealing that it is not entirely at the mercy of the public: instead, it balances open access and power with a unique bureaucracy that takes a page from traditional organizational forms. Along the way, Jemielniak incorporates fascinating cases that highlight the tug of war among the participants as they forge ahead in this pioneering environment.


Dariusz Jemielniak is Associate Professor of Management at Kozminski University in Warsaw, Poland, where he heads the Center for Research on Organizations and Workplaces. Beyond academia, he is a heavily engaged Wikipedian.

Book review [By Roisin Kiberb in Motherboard – Vice]

“The book pulls off a near-impossible double act, serving as both primer and detailed study on the habits of Wikipedians. It presents Wikipedia as a ‘parahierarchy’ thriving on its own conflicts, where even the dense catalogue of house rules is subject to reinterpretation.”

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