Commentators suggest that Wikipedia and other collaborative network-driven projects, such as the Linux computer operating system, could be an emerging socioeconomic paradigm no less radical and disruptive than the Industrial Revolution.
Wikipedia is meant to be a new way of doing things in a world of ubiquitous electronic information and social networks, one that may be changing the conduct of everything from scientific research to political campaigns.
Sociological commentary and predictions aside, however, do Wikipedia and other “crowd-sourced” efforts really function so differently? Purdue communications researcher Sorin Adam Matei and his team are testing the concept by analyzing Wikipedia articles and revisions produced between 2001 and 2008 – a computationally demanding task. They’re finding that Wikipedia may have more in common with an old-fashioned factory floor than we think.
In theory, the collaborative online encyclopedia’s entries are created, edited and maintained with little in the way of traditional, hierarchical organizational and leadership structures. The production of Wikipedia has been characterized as an emergent system, like an ant colony, resulting from collective actions of individual participants with the “wisdom of the crowd” yielding a viable outcome.