Benjamin Mako Hill
University of Washington
Lifecycles of Peer-produced Knowledge Commons
After increasing rapidly over seven years, the number of active contributors to English Wikipedia peaked in 2007 and has been in decline since. Benjamin Mako Hill will present a body of evidence that suggests that English Wikipedia's pattern of growth and decline appears to be a general feature of "peer production"—the model of collaborative production that has produced millions of wikis, free/open source software projects, websites like OpenStreetMap, and more. He will argue that this pattern of growth, maturity, and decline is not caused by newcomers who have stopped showing up, but rather because communities have become less open to the newcomers who do arrive. Hill will present a theoretical model and a range of empirical evidence that suggests why this surprising dynamic may be a rational approach to the shifting governance challenges faced by digital knowledge commons.
Benjamin Mako Hill is an Assistant Professor in the University of Washington Department of Communication His research focuses on collective action in online communities and seeks to understand why some attempts at collaborative production—like Wikipedia and Linux—build large volunteer communities while the vast majority never attract even a second contributor. He is particularly interested in how the design of communication and information technologies shape fundamental social outcomes with broad theoretical and practical implications—like the decision to join a community or contribute to a public good. His research is deeply interdisciplinary, consists primarily of “big data” quantitative analyses, and lies at the intersection of communication, human-computer interaction, and sociology.