Negotiating Knowledge on Wikipedia: A study focused on different views on Wikipedia as a source of information among Swedish scholars

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The different attitudes toward Wikipedia among individuals have always been something that has shaped my personal view of the encyclopedia. As a student studying media, I wanted to understand how Wikipedia has come to be what it is today and how the view of the website could differentiate between individuals depending on their view of information online. The many times that information in the encyclopedia helped me during my childhood and adolescence were also taken with a pinch of salt due to the different types of criticism provided by people in my surroundings. This criticism was often directed towards the sheer openness of the structure of Wikipedia and how reliable the information on the site really was since anyone could contribute. Growing up in Sweden and often using Wikipedia to answer the whys and hows of life, I came to understand how important Wikipedia is as a nonprofit organization and as a database of knowledge in general when looking for information online.

These aspects of Wikipedia were therefore something I wanted to take a closer look into when conducting my thesis during the final examination of my bachelor’s degree in Media and Communication studies at Karlstad University. The main interest of my study is the different views Swedish Scholars may have on Wikipedia and how they view themselves as potential producers of the encyclopedia. This also consisted of some notions targeted as to how and why these individuals could potentially participate in the production of free information online. These would be individuals that have a common sense of knowledge, at a higher education level and therefore also have potential information to contribute to Wikipedia with. I wanted to see how these individuals described their view of contributing to Wikipedia as well as how they use the encyclopedia themselves.

The study resulted in different views of the encyclopedia. Some of the participants expressed that they felt that contributing to Wikipedia with their specific knowledge was a way to spread general knowledge and “give back” to society which funded their research through taxes. Other participants expressed that they didn’t think the structure of Wikipedia was reliable, which also led them to personally distance themselves from the website. Among the participants, one was already actively contributing with information on why it is important for scholars to contribute. This also raised certain aspects as to the (lack of) incitements among universities in Sweden to inform why and how it is important to contribute to Wikipedia. This specific participant also provided information that led to a further computational network analysis. This analysis illustrated some of the connections that exist between users and how the different users interact with each other’s material. An expert witness from Wikimedia Sweden was also interviewed to shed even further understanding of how the information on Wikipedia is important to preserve a cultural heritage online.

The research brought me an even further understanding of the different contexts in which humans contribute to Wikipedia, especially in academic professions. The link to the study is down below, I hope you’ll find it interesting.

View the study here:

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