The Joys of Wiki Work: Craftsmanship, Flow and Self-externalization in a Digital Environment
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Original versionHenningsen E, Larsen H: The Joys of Wiki Work: Craftsmanship, Flow and Self-externalization in a Digital Environment. In: Audunson RA, Andresen H, Fagerlid C, Henningsen E, Hobohm H, Jochumsen H, Larsen H, Vold T. Libraries, Archives and Museums as Democratic Public Spaces in a Digital Age, 2020. Walter de Gruyter p. 345-362 https://doi.org/10.1515/9783110636628-017
Public discussions on digital technology and the Internet tend generally to be framed in epochalist terms and to be rife with utopian and dystopian projections of our imminent digital futures (Du Gay 2003; Henningsen and Larsen, this volume). As many observers have noted, in recent years a shift in the tone of such discussions has occurred, as the optimism that accrued to the Web 2.0 and social media 10–15 years ago has waned, with darker visions being brought to the fore. Today, a probing of the role of social media as vehicles of misinformation, commoditization, and mass surveillance looms large in popular and scholarly discussions alike (Fuchs et al. 2012; Van Dijck 2013). However, there is one notable exception to this trend in the current flora of social media: since the turn of the century, Wikipedia and platforms based on the wiki-technology have been a constant source of positive wonder among commentators. This relates to the democratic nature of the Wikipedia organization, to the deliberative aspect of content production, and to the platforms’ persistent avoidance of commercialism (FirerBlaes and Fuchs 2014; Van Dijck 2013; Wright 2010).¹ Prosumers (Ritzer et al. 2012; Toffler 1980) have contributed millions of articles for Wikipedia and other wiki-platforms. The true wonder of wiki-platforms is their capacity to mobilize contributors in great numbers and to incite them to write and edit articles. Based on a case study of the Norwegian local history wiki platform lokalhistoriewiki.no, we seek to understand what motivates contributors to engage in wiki work, and how this can be specified theoretically. We argue that wiki work is an avenue for the exertion of craftsmanship (Sennett 2009), and that it involves psychological processes of flow (Csikszentmihalyi 2008) and social processes of self-externalization (Elster 1989).