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A system dynamics investigation of knowledge collaboration in online encyclopedias based on activity theory

Fengjun Liu (Dalian Maritime University, Dalian, China)
Zhengkui Lin (Dalian Maritime University, Dalian, China)
Yi Qu (Dalian Maritime University, Dalian, China)

Kybernetes

ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 4 August 2020

Issue publication date: 6 July 2021

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Abstract

Purpose

Although researchers have demonstrated a keen interest in knowledge collaboration in online encyclopedias, previous studies have seldom explored the dynamic interrelations in online encyclopedias over time that involve the iteratively melding of individual cognitive system and knowledge collaboration system. Therefore, this paper aims to reveal the structure and dynamics of knowledge collaboration in online encyclopedias from a perspective of system dynamics (SD).

Design/methodology/approach

This paper proposes a general activity system of knowledge collaboration in online encyclopedias based on Engeström’s activity theory. According to the SD methodology proposed by Forrester, this study develops a holistic SD model by identifying interactions of knowledge collaboration factors based on behavioral theories; validating the SD model by structural tests and behavior tests involving historical data of English Wikipedia; and conducting simulation to capture the interactive dynamics of the salient factors of knowledge collaboration.

Findings

According to the SD methodology, this study develops and validates an SD model to explore interesting dynamic interrelations among core factors (contributors, conflicts, discussions, entries quantity and entries quality) that are neglected by previous research. The results show that there is a significant negative feedback relationship between inactive contributors and entries quality, between contributors and conflicts and between edit conflicts and entries quality. There is a complicated nonlinear feedback relationship between active contributors and entries quality, and between edit conflicts and discussions.

Originality/value

Different from prior empirical studies that normally investigate the unidirectional linear relationships among prominent factors of knowledge collaboration in online encyclopedias from a static perspective, this study captures a dynamic picture of their interrelations by unfolding their behavior patterns over time. The main contribution of this study is to develop a holistic SD model and to reveal and elaborate on the complex dynamics involved online encyclopedias based on activity theory.

Keywords

Citation

Liu, F., Lin, Z. and Qu, Y. (2021), "A system dynamics investigation of knowledge collaboration in online encyclopedias based on activity theory", Kybernetes, Vol. 50 No. 6, pp. 1784-1810. https://doi.org/10.1108/K-02-2020-0113

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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