Research:Wikipedia Affordances


This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.

Key PersonnelEdit

Project SummaryEdit

Information Systems (IS) research has had hard time defining technological artifact which is highly consequential for studying and understanding its outcomes. Traditionally, IS scholars have taken a technology deterministic approach (defining technology as its features and other embedded properties), social constructivist approach (defining technology as people's understanding of it), or somewhere in between. Trying to push forward a third approach having some elements of both approaches, recently researchers have adopted the theory of affordances proposing understanding technology in terms of its affordances, rather than its features or social constructions.

This study is aimed at investigating the affordance concept to see how it is shaped and evolved by material and social aspects of technology. To do so, the study employs a qualitative case study of Wikipedia to examine how its affordances (possibilities of action) are shaped by its material features and community complexities. What makes Wikipedia a rich case for our study, is its complex social interactions organized around doing the task (building a free encyclopedia) weaved into its materiality of features.


To capture Wikipedia affordances and see how they are shaped and evolved, we do semi-structured in-depth interviews with Wikipedia editors with enough experience and tenure having deep understanding of Wikipedia processes, norms and policies. We extend our sample of interviewees across two to three different languages of Wikipedia to see how they differently afford wikipedians to contribute and how these different affordances are emerged through sociomateriality of the community. The target Wikipedia languages would be English, Persian, and German.

The interviews will take place through Skype (or other similar tools) and recorded (if the interviewee accepts); Each is expected to take about an hour or so. The recorded interviews are highly confidential and accessible just to the researchers.


The research findings will be submitted to Organization and Information Systems academic publications, including conference proceedings and journals. In the case that publication target is not openly accessible, the author would be delighted to make other versions of pre- and post-print accessible to everyone, if it is not legally banned.

Wikimedia Policies, Ethics, and Human Subjects ProtectionEdit

This study is entitled to AIS Code of Research Conduct. The researcher will anonymize the data and any resulting publications; We will take every required step to make sure about privacy concerns of participating wikipedians.

Benefits for the Wikimedia communityEdit

  • The study enables Wikipedia community to understand variety of affordances supported by their environment, and how and why they are different across languages (if they are).
  • Exploring Wikipedia affordances will enables us to define and differentiate it from other Wiki-based communities that would in turn facilitate the introduction of Wikipedia to others and ease the process of newcomer socialization within the community.
  • Understanding how Wikipedia affordances have shaped and evolved through social and material aspects of Wikipedia community will enable them to mindfully plan for maintaining or changing aspects of its affordances. It would also have implications for Wikipedia growth in minor languages.


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