Cover image for
Common knowledge? : an ethnography of Wikipedia / Dariusz Jemielniak.
Jemielniak, Dariusz, author.
Stanford, California : Stanford University Press, [2014]

xvi, 293 pages ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 237-280) and index.
0804789444 (cloth ; alk. paper)

0804797234 (pbk. ; alk. paper)

9780804789448 (cloth ; alk. paper)

9780804797238 (pbk. ; alk. paper)


Material Type
Call Number
Book AE100.J49

On Order



With an emphasis on peer-produced content and collaboration, Wikipedia exemplifies a departure from traditional management and organizational models. This iconic "project" has been variously characterized as a hive mind and an information revolution, attracting millions of new users even as it has been denigrated as anarchic and plagued by misinformation. Have Wikipedia's structure and inner workings promoted its astonishing growth and enduring public relevance?In Common Knowledge? , Dariusz Jemielniak draws on his academic expertise and years of active participation within the Wikipedia community to take readers inside the site, illuminating how it functions and deconstructing its distinctive organization. Against a backdrop of misconceptions about its governance, authenticity, and accessibility, Jemielniak delivers the first ethnography of Wikipedia, revealing that it is not entirely at the mercy of the public: instead, it balances open access and power with a unique bureaucracy that takes a page from traditional organizational forms. Along the way, Jemielniak incorporates fascinating cases that highlight the tug of war among the participants as they forge ahead in this pioneering environment.

Author Notes

Dariusz Jemielniak is Associate Professor of Management at Kozminski University, where he heads the Center for Research on Organizations and Workplaces.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Jemielniak (management, Kozminski Univ., Poland) uses his experiences as an editor, administrator, bureaucrat, and steward on both the Polish and English Wikipedias to help readers understand what really happens behind the entries. He shows that Wikipedia is both the same as and different from other online collaborative projects by looking at theories on collaboration, conflict, leadership, bureaucracy, and trust. Jemielniak presents an evenhanded look at Wikipedia, showing how policy along with a balance of bureaucracy and anarchy work well. The author explores the problems editors and the Wikimedia Foundation (the nonprofit organization supporting Wikipedia projects) are trying to work through. His criticism is constructive, focusing on situations and issues that have improved or can improve Wikipedia, including how founder Jimmy Wales's role has shifted. Jemielniak provides little about his own personal experience as an editor, even though he approaches his study as a native anthropologist. He relies on policy, reviewing talk pages, and interviews to gather data, focusing instead on bringing readers behind the scenes and clarifying how and why things happen. Methodology, glossary, and an extensive bibliography are included for Wikipedia novices and interested researchers. --Sara Marks, University of Massachusetts, Lowell

Table of Contents

Prologuep. vii
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Introductionp. 1
1 Wikipedia in Short: Numbers, Rules, and Editorsp. 10
2 Formal Roles and Hierarchy: A Cabal That Rules the Worldp. 29
3 Conflict Resolution on Wikipedia: Why Die for Danzig?p. 59
4 Bureaucracy and Control: Big Brother Is Watchingp. 85
5 Trust in People and Trust in Procedures: The Truth Is Out Therep. 105
6 Between Anarchy and Bureaucracy: Wikimedia Governancep. 125
7 Leadership Transformed: The Pros and Cons of Benevolent Dictatorshipp. 153
8 The Knowledge Revolution at the Gatesp. 181
Appendix A Methodologyp. 193
Appendix B Glossary of Wikipedia Slangp. 203
Notesp. 227
Referencesp. 237
Indexp. 281