The sociology of critique in Wikipedia

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This paper presents a new conceptual framework for the analysis of authority in anti-authoritarian environments. Legitimate domination in commons-based peer production projects such as Wikipedia rests on two main principles: the extraordinary qualities of charismatic individuals and collectively-formulated norms and rules. Self-governed authority is in turn based on a critique of separated power in the realms of expertise and justice. It thereby constitutes a prefigurative response to widespread democratic aspirations in technologically advanced societies. However this conceptual framework also raises analytical and practical questions. In the first instance, critiques of separation on Wikipedia are hindered by the persistent regard for outside expertise, and by perceptions that justice is unfairly applied because of the ever-increasing power of the administrative caste as well as the anonymity of some participants. Second, the proposed sociology of critical actions in Wikipedia requires discussions of specific decisions by project officers and may thus contradict traditional ethical prohibitions regarding the identifications of online research subjects, suggesting the need for a clarification of the aims of research into peer production projects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Peer Production
Issue number0
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2011


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