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This page is part of the Proceedings of Wikimania 2006.

Motivation Revisited: The Open Question of User Motivation in the Light of System Theory

4Final edit
Creator Sebastian Seidenglanz, Christian Pentzold
Conference track
License Heckert GNU.png GNU Free Documentation License (details)
About the creator
Sebastian Seidenglanz has been a student at the Department of Media Communication, Chemnitz University of Technology since 2001. He is about to finish his master thesis on motivational aspects of wikipedia usage. His attempt is to utilize Niklas Luhmann's system theory and especially the concept of system identity to discribe motives on a structural level.
Christian is a Master student at the Dept. of Media Communication at the University of Technology Chemnitz. He is currently finishing his Master thesis dealing with a discourse analytical, Foucault-inspired framework to examine Wikipedia.

related article: Foucault at Wiki. First steps towards a conceptual framework for the analysis of wiki discourses.

The Wiki technology has transformed collaborative work in online environments towards a new form of constructing online communities. With its astonishing productivity, complex organizational structure and extraordinary stability the most popular and prolific Wiki Wikipedia presents an ideal platform for collaborative work because of being publicly editable and transparent. In fact, the almost complete absence of barriers enabled more than a million users to join the Wikipedia community. They engage in this authoring project, e.g. they create knowledge, debate critical topics, start new initiatives, and projects.

Firstly, the authors examine the recent studies on motivation in FLOSS (Free/Libre/Open Source Software) projects, for instance the Linux kernel. These provide insight especially concerning intrinsic factors using concepts of gift economy, epistemic community, community of practice. However, these approaches often leave out the role of extrinsic factors. Moreover, it is questionable if these models can be applied to Wikipedians. Therefore, the authors look in a second step at surveys on motivational factors in Wikipedia that stress the importance of intrinsic factors (learning, fun, flow) and the identification with the project. On that basis, an innovative perspective is presented by employing Niklas Luhmann’s system theory to shed light on the motivational factors emerging from the Wiki work processes. With regard to Luhmann’s notion of social systems and networks the authors outline a perspective that postulates an integrative framework for analyzing motivation in Wiki-webs. Thus, it turns away from common methods like user surveys and focuses instead on both the motivational and the structural level of Wikipedia by using network analysis. The authors suggest that the concept of “system identity” can be viewed as a key factor to describe user motives.

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