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The image of a community shaped in a virtual environment sounded rather ‘psychedelic’ before the advent of the Internet. Rheingold (1993) proposed the term ‘virtual community’ to connote the intense feelings of camaraderie, empathy and support he observed among people in online spaces. In this field, Reagle makes a very good contribution towards undoing the image of online collective action as ‘non-real’ (an image still frequently present among scientific researchers). Furthermore, Reagle’s book is part of the move towards focusing more attention on open content communities (as he refers to them) as specific types of communities with a knowledge-making goal; and he goes beyond the most researched case of free source communities.
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Information, Communication & Society
ISSN: 1369-118X (Print) 1468-4462 (Online) Journal homepage:
Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia
Mayo Fuster Morell
To cite this article: Mayo Fuster Morell (2013) Good Faith Collaboration: The
Culture of Wikipedia, Information, Communication & Society, 16:1, 146-147, DOI:
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Published online: 12 Aug 2011.
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Joseph Michael Reagle Jr., Good Faith Collaboration: The Culture of Wikipedia (Cam-
bridge, MA and London: MIT Press, 2010), 244 pp., ISBN 9-780-2620-1447-2
(hbk), £20.95.
The image of a community shaped in a virtual environment sounded rather ‘psyche-
delic’ before the advent of the Internet. Rheingold (1993) proposed the term ‘virtual
community’ to connote the intense feelings of camaraderie, empathy and support he
observed among people in online spaces. In this field, Reagle makes a very good con-
tribution towards undoing the image of online collective action as ‘non-real’ (an
image still frequently present among scientific researchers). Furthermore, Reagle’s
book is part of the move towards focusing more attention on open content communities
(as he refers to them) as specific types of communities with a knowledge-making goal;
and he goes beyond the most researched case of free source communities.
Instead, Reagle focuses his analysis on the case of Wikipedia, an online ency-
clopaedia created in 2001. Ten years later, Wikipedia is one of the top 10 most
visited websites worldwide. Wikipedia has attracted the attention of researchers
since 2003, but with a consistent increase since 2005. The reliability of the ency-
clopaedia’s content (Giles 2005) and quantitative analyses of large-scale public
data sets formed the predominant approach in early empirical research on Wiki-
pedia (Vie
´gas et al. 2004). This was followed by a more social approach and the
adoption of qualitative methods. In its switch to social norms and from an ethno-
graphic approach, Reagle’s book is a trail blazer, particularly in terms of its cul-
tural and historical specificity.
Reagle richly and with accuracy contextualised Wikipedia from the early
eighteenth-century visionaries and predecessors, with the aim of creating an
Enlightenment-era ideal of universal access to the sum of all knowledge. Reagle
also points out how Wikipedia is a flashpoint for wider social anxieties about tech-
nology and social change. Beyond these exercises of putting this topic into context,
Reagle points out the core values and norms that feed Wikipedia’s collaborative
culture (such as openness, porous boundaries, consensus decision making, author-
itative leadership, among others). Reagles main argument is that the norm of
‘good faith’ has played an important role in shaping Wikipedia’s environment
and has been necessary for its collaborative production. He also gives consideration
to the ‘neutral point of view’, arguing how encyclopaedic standards are linked to
Information, Communication & Society Vol. 16, No. 1, February 2013, pp. 146–152
ISSN 1369-118X print/ISSN 1468-4462 online
norms, as they allow the creation of ‘compromises’, both in terms of putting
together pieces of knowledge and creating the right conditions for collaboration.
The author does not ignore conflict, but his analytical goal does not require him
to confront the norms with the resulting behaviours.
The book is well documented, with an elaborate but accessible writing style,
which is at times provocative. It results in a form of rich composition of eight
pieces (chapters) of Wikipedia ‘puzzle’, even if some readers might miss a
more explicit continuum linking the lines together. In the eyes of this author,
the book is a primary reference point for researchers aiming to study Wikipedia,
especially for those unfamiliar with it. Furthermore, it is a good entrance into the
field for any student or scholar who would like to know more about the norms
and culture of online interaction and online grouping.
Mayo Fuster Morell
#2013 Mayo Fuster Morell
Rheingold, H. (1993) The Virtual Community. Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier,
Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA.
Giles, J. (2005) ‘?Internet encyclopaedias go head-to-head’, Nature, vol. 438,
pp. 900–901.Vie
´gas. F. B., Wattenberg, M. & Dave, K. (2004) ‘Studying
cooperation and conflict between authors with history flow visualizations’,
CHI, 575 82. Available at:
Mayo Fuster Morell is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Institute of
Govern and Public Policies (Autonomous University of Barcelona) and visiting
scholar at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (Open University of Catalonia).
She is a member of the research committee of the Wikimedia Foundation and col-
laborates in research projects on Wikipedia with Science Po and she is fellow of
the Berkman center of Internet and society (Harvard University). She recently
concluded her PhD thesis at the European University Institute. She explored
relationship between governance models and participation and collaboration
growth. She combined a large Nstatistical analysis and case study comparisons
(Wikipedia, Social Forums, Flickr, and Wikihow). Address: Carrer Lluı
´s Santa
Numero 13, Porta 7, Vale
`ncia C. P. 46005, Estat Espanyol. [email:]
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