Digital Divisions of Labor and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia
Graham, M., Straumann, R. K., and Hogan, B. 2015. Digital Divisions of Labor and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105(6) 1158-1178. doi:10.1080/00045608.2015.1072791. Forthcoming
37 Pages Posted: 9 Sep 2015 Last revised: 2 Dec 2015
Date Written: September 7, 2015
There are now over three billion Internet users on our planet. The connections afforded to all of those people, in theory, allow for an unprecedented amount of communication and public participation. The goal of this paper is to examine how those potentials match up to actual patterns of participation. By focusing on Wikipedia, the world’s largest and most used repository of user-generated content, we are able to gain important insights into the geographies of voice and participation. This paper shows that the relative democratisation of the Internet has not brought about a concurrent democratisation of voice and participation. Despite the fact that it is widely used around the world, Wikipedia is characterized by highly uneven geographies of participation. The goal of highlighting these inequalities is not to suggest that they are insurmountable. Our regression analysis shows that the availability of broadband is a clear factor in the propensity of people to participate on Wikipedia. However, the relationship is not a linear one. As a country approaches levels of connectivity above about 450,000 broadband Internet connections, the ability of broadband access to positively affect participation keeps increasing. Complicating this issue is the fact that participation from the world’s economic peripheries tends to focus on editing about the world’s cores rather than their own local regions. These results ultimately point to an informational magnetism that is cast by the world’s economic cores; virtuous and vicious cycles that make it difficult to reconfigure networks and hierarchies of knowledge production.
Keywords: participation, digital divide, information geography, digital labour, Wikipedia
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