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Title: Wiki-enabled emergent knowledge processes through acceleration of stigmergic collaboration
Other Titles: Tong guo cu jin "ji fa gong zuo" shi he zuo jin xing ji yu wei ji de tu fa shi zhi shi guan li cheng xu
Authors: Zhong, Yu (鍾鈺)
Department: Department of Information Systems
Degree: Master of Philosophy
Issue Date: 2009
Publisher: City University of Hong Kong
Subjects: Knowledge management.
Organizational learning.
Wikis (Computer science)
Notes: CityU Call Number: HD30.2 .Z863 2009
viii, 112 leaves 30 cm.
Thesis (M.Phil.)--City University of Hong Kong, 2009.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 107-112)
Type: thesis
Abstract: As we move further into a knowledge economy, many processes can be labelled as emergent knowledge processes" (Markus et al. 2002; Majchrzak 2006). These processes involve building knowledge in an unstructured and dynamic manner through diverse human participation. Unfortunately, such processes are generally not well supported by existing IT systems, such as executive information systems, expert systems or electronic communication systems (Davenport 2005; McAfee 2006; Wagner 2006). To address the unique requirements of IT systems supporting emergent knowledge processes, this study proposes and evaluates the use of wiki technology and the "wiki way" of collaboration (Leuf and Cunningham 2001; Reinhart 2005). As such, it combines a design theoretic approach (Markus et al. 2002) with an empirical evaluation. This research addresses the collaboration in wikis through a new lens by viewing a wiki and its participants as an emergent complex system. Previous work, in contrast, has primarily focused on understanding contributors’ activities from a psychological or internal community perspective. This dissertation draws on the literature of stigmergic collaboration (Grassé 1959; Parunak 2005) which establishes that individuals can collaborate without direct communication if the work product itself represents or contains coordination stimuli. Based on stigmergic theory, the research demonstrates the wiki way as a promising alternative to achieve more effective emergent knowledge processes through the application and acceleration of the mechanism of stigmergy. Stigmergy distinctively relies on the iterative interaction of agent and environment through ongoing and mutual modification or stimulation (Marsh and Onof 2008). The agents modify the environment through physical manipulation or encode signs directly into or upon it. In turn, the environment plays the role of medium which acts as a cue triggering further actions from agents (Elliott 2007). In such a system, wiki technology and the "wiki way" promise increased efficiency and effectiveness to motivate participants to contribute content collectively. Furthermore, the diversified contributions can be easily integrated into the environment (wiki), thus attracting additional participation. Moreover, on a level above the local interactions of participants and environment, wiki and its participants together can be considered as a stigmergic system. Such a system is often described as "self-organizing" and exhibiting "emergent behaviour" (Parunak 2005; Kelly 1995). In particular, the emergent dynamic is a distinguishing factor of stigmergy. The emergent capacity of stigmergy means that such systems are evolvable, adaptable to the dynamics and able to develop new behaviour. This dissertation tests the feasibility and effectiveness of the proposed approach through an in-depth investigation of the phenomenon in the context of Wikipedia, one of the most popular and successful wiki applications (Tapscott & Williams 2006). Drawing on the framework of stigmergy, the study systematically identifies significant factors in Wikipedia that harness the principles of stigmergic collaboration based on empirical analysis of longitudinal data from a sample of Wikipedia articles. The "emergent behaviour" in Wikipedia is further evaluated and modelled on the system level based on the data of Wikipedia statistic websites. The statistical results strongly support the research model and expectations. The findings entail significant implications for both research and practice. In terms of research, it provides a better understanding for the underlying mechanism of the wiki way of collaboration by bringing in a stigmergic perspective. It also identifies critical features in wikis to enable and accelerate stigmergic collaboration. For practice, it offers design guidelines for building up effective wiki collaboration to support emergent knowledge processes.
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