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26-29 May 2015
Fürstenberghaus
Europe/Berlin timezone
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Contribution Complete Research Paper

Fürstenberghaus - F33
23 - Openness and IT

Battle over Media Choice: Multiplex Tensions in the Online Community of Wikipedia

Speakers

  • Arto LANAMÄKI
  • Netta IIVARI

Primary authors

Co-authors

Description

Media choice theories conceptualize decisions people make when they are faced with communication media alternatives to fit a communicative need. In this paper we address two gaps in extant research on media choice. First, we show that media choices may be intimately intertwined with the questions of power. The second contribution comes from situating an online community as the focus of media choice research – a novel combination. We conducted an interpretive case study on how power is intermingled with the choice of Internet Relay Chat (IRC) in the Finnish Wikipedia. We found that IRC was viewed in starkly different ways by different actors. Moreover, the IRC was largely associated with the notions of power. In particular, it was related to accession and ability to influence decision-making in the community. One party perceived IRC as a useful and open channel for quick-tempo collaborations and informal interactions, while others saw it as an arena for “the elite” to scheme against “the proletari-at”. Overall, IRC was a source of “multiplex tensions”: conflicts originating from communication being dispersed into multiple media and from different perceptions towards a medium. The study provides several important implications for theory and practice.