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Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia (History and Foundations of Information Science) [Kindle Edition]

Joseph Michael Reagle Jr. , Lawrence Lessig
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Kindle Price: $16.99

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Book Description

Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, is built by a community--a community of
Wikipedians who are expected to "assume good faith" when interacting with one another. In
Good Faith Collaboration, Joseph Reagle examines this unique collaborative
culture. Wikipedia, says Reagle, is not the first effort to create a freely shared, universal
encyclopedia; its early twentieth-century ancestors include Paul Otlet's Universal
and H. G. Wells's proposal for a World Brain. Both these
projects, like Wikipedia, were fuelled by new technology--which at the time included index cards and
microfilm. What distinguishes Wikipedia from these and other more recent ventures is Wikipedia's
good-faith collaborative culture, as seen not only in the writing and editing of articles but also
in their discussion pages and edit histories. Keeping an open perspective on both knowledge claims
and other contributors, Reagle argues, creates an extraordinary collaborative potential. Wikipedia's
style of collaborative production has been imitated, analyzed, and satirized. Despite the social
unease over its implications for individual autonomy, institutional authority, and the character
(and quality) of cultural products, Wikipedia's good-faith collaborative culture has brought us
closer than ever to a realization of the century-old pursuit of a universal encyclopedia.

Editorial Reviews


"[A] fascinating revelation about how Wikipedia is just one of several attempts at creating a universal encyclopedia." -- Jeff Kirchoff, Rhizomes

"Beyond doubt this is a text that captures the spirit of the Wikipedia enterprise; it is definitely an excellent read and an accomplished exercise of transparency." -- José-Carlos Redondo-Olmedilla, The Information Society

"[I] recommend it to the readers as not only serious, but also humorous and entertaining reading, well written and informative to many social and internet scholars." -- Professor Elena Maceviciute, Information Research

"For students of social phenomena, Reagle's history is a fascinating read, especially in light of Wikileaks...for anyone interested in starting a wiki, his descriptions of problems and solutions are invaluable." -- Bernice Glenn, Computing Reviews

"Good Faith Collaboration sheds some much-needed light on one of the most influential resources available today. Joseph Reagle accurately captures the internal collaborative climate of 'good faith' in Wikipedia, and provides an excellent history of its progenitors like Nupedia." -- Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia

"Joseph Reagle is one of a very few people who are both deeply engaged participants in online community and first-rate scholars of it. In Good Faith Collaboration he provides the best explanation to date of how a communally created encyclopedia went from 'crazy idea' to the most important reference work in the English language in less than ten years, and what Wikipedia's massive global experiment in its collaborative culture means for the future of ours." -- Clay Shirky, NYU, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations

"Ultimately, Reagle offers a compelling case that Wikipedia's most fascinating and unprecedented aspect isn't the encyclopedia itself -- rather, it's the collaborative culture that underpins it: brawling, self-reflexive, funny, serious, and full-tilt committed to the project, even if it means setting aside personal differences. Reagle's position as a scholar and a member of the community makes him uniquely situated to describe this culture." -- Cory Doctorow, boingboing

"Joseph Reagle's account of what makes Wikipedia tick debunks the vision of a shining Alexandria gliding toward free and perfect knowledge and replaces it with something far more awe-inspiring: a humane, and human, enterprise that with each fitful back-and-forth elicits the best from those it draws in. In an era of polemic and cheap shots that some attribute largely to the Internet's influence, he shows how even those of wildly varying backgrounds who disagree intensely can see themselves as embarked on a common, ennobling mission grounded in respect and reason." -- Jonathan Zittrain, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School and Kennedy School, Professor of Computer Science, Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and author of The Future of the Internet -- And How to Stop It

"Wikipedia deserves to have its story intelligently told, and Joseph Reagle has done exactly that. Good Faith Collaboration is smart, accessible, and astutely observed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to better understand how Wikipedia works, and why it matters." -- Sue Gardner, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation

About the Author

Joseph Michael Reagle Jr. is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies at Northeastern University and a Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2186 KB
  • Print Length: 264 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 27, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004HD49OO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,055,204 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stepping stone for understanding Wikipedia October 26, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Joseph Reagle's Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia is a major step forward for understanding "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit" and the community that has been building it for the past decade. Based on Reagle's dissertation, the book takes a broadly humanistic approach to exploring what makes the Wikipedia community tick, combining elements of anthropology, sociology, history, and science & technology studies.

The book opens with an example of how Wikipedia works that turns the famous "Godwin's law" on its head: unlike the typical Internet discussion where heated argument gives way to accusations of Nazism, Wikipedians are shown rationally and respectfully discussing actual neo-Nazis who have taken an unhealthy interest in Wikipedia. This theme of "laws" carries throughout the book, which treats the official and unofficial norms of Wikipedia while turning repeatedly to the humorous and often ironic "laws of Wikipedia" that contributors have compiled as they tried to come to an understanding of their own community.

Reagle's first task is to put Wikipedia into historical context. It is only the most recent in a long line of attempts to create a universal encyclopedia. And what Reagle shows, much better than prior, more elementary pre-histories of Wikipedia, is just how much Wikipedia has in common--in terms of aspiration and ideology--with earlier efforts. The "encyclopedic impulse" has run strong in eccentrics dating back centuries. But the real forerunners of Wikipedia come from the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Paul Otlet's "Universal Bibliographic Repertory" and H.G. Wells' "World Brain". Both projects aspired to revolutionize how knowledge was organized and transmitted, with implications far beyond mere education.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good history of Wikipedia and what makes it tick November 1, 2010
This is very good book about Wikipedia and its history. The author is extremely knowledgeable about the subject and presents a thorough analysis of Wikipedia, Wikipedians and the community that they have created. I especially enjoyed the chapter on collaboration and the mores governing behavior on Wikipedia!
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32 of 82 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Author refuses to accept critique September 29, 2010
By G. Kohs
I wouldn't think of buying this book, based on my complete reading of the freely-available first chapter. It's no surprise to me that the lead endorsements of the book come from fellow Berkman Fellow Jonathan Zittrain, then another Berkman Fellow and Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, then followed by Wikimedia Foundation director Sue Gardner. It might as well have been written by the Wikimedia Foundation's own public relations and communications manager.

The entire work regurgitates the tired old public relations pablum that the Wikipedia organization sputters forth on the Internet and on the increasingly uncritical media that fails to actually investigate stories any more. As Seth Finkelstein (former columnist in the UK newspaper 'The Guardian' and award-winning analyst of technology themes) points out in a comment on Reagle's blog, that the work is extremely credulous. Finkelstein asks, "Is there anywhere in the book where [Reagle writes] something along the lines of 'The Wikipedia community tells itself a nice story here, but it's a fiction which covers up the following cultural dysfunction.' Can [Reagle] provide a quick counter-example to argue against the view that this is functionally a verbose marketing brochure for Wikipedia?" Reagle's response was to busily delete the comments of other critics who weren't so nicely worded.
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More About the Author

Joseph Reagle is a scholar of collaborative culture. He received his Ph.D., and was an adjunct faculty member, at NYU's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. He's also been a Fellow at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society. As a research engineer at MIT's Lab for Computer Science he served as a Working Group Chair and Author within IETF and W3C on topics including digital security, privacy, and Internet policy. He has spent much of his life in Brooklyn and Cambridge and enjoys bicycling and baking bread.


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