What Cognition Does for Wikis

Track: Wiki Track
Authors: Rut Jesus

Theoretical frameworks need to be developed to account for the phenomenon of Wikipedia and writing in Wikis. In this paper, a cognitive framework divides processes into the categories of Cognition for Planning and Cognition for Improvising. This distinction is applied to Wikipedia to understand the many small and the few big edits by which Wikipedia’s articles grow. The paper relates the distinction to Lessig’ Read-Only and Read- Write, to Benkler’s modularity and granularity of contributions and to Turkle and Papert’s bricoleurs and planners. It argues that Wikipedia thrives because it harnesses a Cognition for Improvising surplus oriented by kindness and trust towards distant others and proposes that Cognition for Improvising is a determinant mode for the success of Wikis and Wikipedia. The theoretical framework can be a starting point for a cognitive discussion of wikis, peer-produced commons and new patterns of collaboration.