Do Open Online Projects Create Social Norms?
Journal of Institutional Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(1), pages 45-70, February.
22 Pages Posted: 19 Jan 2016 Last revised: 7 Apr 2021
Date Written: February 8, 2018
Abstract While most scholars agree that prosocial motivations have replaced monetary incentives in open online communities, they often argue that these other-regarding motivations are based on exogenous preferences, and are the prerogative of the contributors. With the help of the French Wikimédia Foundation, we have been able to challenge this claim by questioning a large sample (n=13000) of Wikipedia users. After having expressed their feelings about Wikipédia, these users were invited to play a Dictator Game. As a result we show that a large proportion of respondents, in particular the simple users, chose the equal split in the DG (66% of the sample). This suggests that a majority of participants, mainly the users of, rather than the contributors to Wikipedia, adhere to a social norm of sharing. Investigating the determinants of this result, we prove that an involvement measured by usages (intensity and variety), as well as attachment to, and time spent on Wikipedia, are correlated with the choice of the 50/50 split in the DG. The method of instrumental variables gives an indication that adherence to the social norm of sharing is endogenously determined by the involvement in an open online community. Our result highlights the importance of interactions with the institutional and technical framework of the community in the construction of an adherence to the norm, in particular for those who seem to play a very passive role in the collective building of the Wikipedia project, the users.
Keywords: Social behavior, field experiment, dictator game, survey, Wikipedia, contribution
JEL Classification: C93, C99, H42, D71
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation