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«Distributed Knowledge Production in Internet Newsgroups»

Paper to be presented at the Spring School and Conference:
«Sites of Knowledge Production»,
March 9-12, 2004, University of Basel,Switzerland



Starting from a critique of the "Rational Choice" model (as elaborated by Axelrod et al.), I will discuss some possibilities and constraints of collaborative knowledge production in Internet Newsgroup.

Theoretically, the work is based on the argumentational framework of Peter Kollock, Hardin Russell, Richard Muench, Elinor Ostrom and especially Sigwart Lindenberg, who introduced the term "joint production" in order to expand the rather restrictes "rational choice" model.

Focusing on some aspects of collaboration and of "joint production of knowledge" in Newsgroups of the Internet, I will present the works of Marc Smith and Peter Kollock ("Managing the Virtual Commons", 1994) and of Sheizaf Rafaeli and Robert J. LaRose ("Electronic Bulletin Boards and 'Public Goods'..." 1993).

I will explain my arguments taking some empirical examples from a newsgroup I studied in the context of my PhD work in sociology. My presentation will thus be based on examples taken from a corpus of several ten thousends of Usenet messages collected in 1997 and 1998. In order to expand the micro-level of the analysis, I will present some suggestions for future work on a macro-level of collaborative knowledge production on the Internet (e.g. the joint production of knowledge in developping "open source" software).

The background of the presentation is my PhD thesis on "Online communities in the Internet", a project following my studies on "Virtual communities - the social world of the Internet", itself a project leaded by Prof Dr. Bettina Heintz in the context of the Priority Programm "Switzerland Towards the Future" (1997-2000).


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