Christian Pentzold

The article asks how voluntary engagement in peer production is grounded in the day-to-day lives of highly engaged contributors. To study their routines, I turn to the English and German language editions of Wikipedia, the quintessential example of decentralized and nonproprietary cooperation. Taking issue with idealistic accounts of free and open digital labor, the ethnographic inquiry starts by distinguishing the modes of constructive contribution from which the authors crafted their repertoire of editorial occupations. Based on participant observation, interviews, and the analysis of documents and communications, the study then explains how practical involvement is accommodated within the editors’ everyday affairs. The article concludes by arguing that the project rests on arranging rationalities of autonomy as it opens up a limited range of agreed-upon activities. The available tasks thus allow for different levels of mutuality and interdependency and they help to mitigate tensions between autonomous choice and shared commitment. The full article can be read here