Thursday, 20 March 2008

Theory, Motivation, and Truth

I haven't read anything particularly ground breaking this week, I've mostly just been familiarising myself with what's out there, which has been a useful process. A few things have caught my eye however:

It occurred to me the other day that I ought to be including a little in my literature review about the theory that underlies Wikis. I found one example of such theory, which I have to admit went a bit over my head, in Rafaeli, Hayat and Ariel who talked about Nonaka & Takeuchi's (1995) work on the 'thoery of organizational knowledge creation': 'The process of knowledge creation, according to this theory, involves social interaction and the transition between tacit and explicit knowledge. This theory proposes four modes of knowledge conversion: Socialization individuals share tacit knowledge through joint activities. Externatlization individuals link tacit knowledge to explict knowledge. Combination individuals combine different explicit ideas into more complex sets of explicit knowledge. Internalization individuals extract knowledge from newly created tacti and explicit knowledge.' What? I think I'll figure it out later. It's nearly11.00pm and therefore far too late for that kind of thing! There was also quite a nice reference in Ben Macintyre's 'How wiki-wiki can get sticky' to 'the Enlightenment ideal of the collective pursuit of truth' - which is probably an avenue worth looking into a little from a theoretical perspective.

On motivation, I was interested in Rafaeli, Hayat and Ariel's findings on what motivates Wikipedians to keep 'Wikipedia-ing'(!): 'The data...reveals that the strongest Wikipedians motivators are Cognitive ("Learning new things" and "Intellectual challenge") Affective ("Pleasure") and Integrative ("Sharing my knowledge") and "Contributing to other people")' These findings will be useful when considering how to motivate people to contribute to the BPMA Wiki. It's encouraging to know that there is such a vast community out there who are willing to share their knowledge for no real return. It renews your faith in humanity to know that not everyone is simply out to get whatever they can for themselves. Let's just hope that some of the spirit rests alongside an interest in the history of the post in some individuals!

The feeling of being part of a community was also found to be a strong motivator of Wikipedians. The key issue of course is how to create that community in the first place.

On truth, I also like Ben Macintyre's comment: 'Wikipedia has the same relationship with an encyclopaedia that yesterday's news reporting has with tomorrow's history book. Wikipedia is a first draft. It is not truth.'

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