Citation Bonacchi C (2018) Co-producing Knowledge Online. Connected Communities: Foundation Series, Foundation Series. Bristol: Arts and Humanities Research Council. Connected Communities Foundation Series.
Abstract Knowledge production today relies increasingly on exchanges
between groups of people who connect through the Internet.
This can happen in many forms that include, for example, consulting
and amending Wikipedia entries, engaging in Twitter conversations
about a certain topic, or developing research software by building
on existing code released under a license that allows free sharing,
modification and reuse.
Other kinds of collaborative research are enabled by more bespoke
websites built for specific institutions or groups, such as the Smithsonian Transcription Centre, which was created to involve interested volunpeers (volunteers who are viewed as peers) in the digitisation of collections that support multiple research agendas. The British Library has also recently embraced a similar goal, setting up the LibCrowds platform, while adventure seekers can connect to GlobalXplorer and inspect satellite images to identify signs of looting and assist with understanding the current state of preservation of archaeology-rich landscapes worldwide.
For nature lovers, Snapshot Serengeti offers the possibility to ‘observe animals in the wild’ and help to answer questions about the ways in which competing species coexist.
All of these processes have become possible thanks to the wide
diffusion of the Internet, and the emergence of online public spaces
from an interactive and interconnected World Wide Web. This kind of
web has enabled new practices of data and information generation,
sharing and aggregation, but, arguably, the collaborative production
(and consumption) of knowledge is sometimes so deeply embedded
in our personal and professional lives that we do not always pause to
reflect on its nature and deeper implications. 1 The aim of this review is
to bring attention to these issues by addressing a number of questions relating to online research collaborations established between stakeholders within and beyond the academy. How can collaborative research be strategically and effectively designed online? What are its roots and traditions? What values can it generate for participants? What effects does it have on those excluded? And what are its consequences in epistemological and ethical terms?