Why wikipedia: Self-efficacy and self-esteem in a knowledge-political battle for an egalitarian epistemology

Timme Bisgaard Munk


What makes people contribute voluntarily to Wikipedia? A new qualitative empirical study uncovers new motives, publication strategies and social dynamics in Wikipedia. In addition to the motives treated in the existing scientific literature such as status through status play, altruism through ideological identification, identity through community, the analysis uncovers three other motives through theoretical probability-making and empirical demonstration. Consequently, the following three motives must be added to the repertoire of possible motives for contributing voluntarily to Wikipedia. Firstly, the contributors experience a unique and cheap feeling of self-efficacy. They feel that they are efficient and able to handle the tasks that they take upon themselves. This feeling is caused by the fact that many types of contributions may be experienced as a successful contribution, from small text corrections to authoring of complete lexicon articles. Secondly, the contributors get a unique and cheap experience of self-esteem. A feeling that their modest input has a great impact because they are contributing to the creation of a global knowledge good. Thirdly, they are motivated by the ideology that all people have something to bring to Wikipedia. This may be called an egalitarian epistemology. These three motives in combination with the motives described in the literature provide a better and more balanced answer to the above question. The case is the Danish version of Wikipedia and the qualitative survey consists of six qualitative interviews with six contributors.


Wikipedia, Motives, Explanation models, Public Good, Collective action, Self-efficacy, Self -esteem, Egalitarian epistemology

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15847/obsOBS342009248