Wikipedia and participatory culture: Why fans edit

Paul Thomas

Abstract


Online, fans of popular culture media partake in participatory culture in various ways, such as writing fan fiction and scrutinizing media on message boards. Another way they do so is by editing relevant articles in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia. In fact, research has shown that Wikipedia articles skew heavily toward pop culture, suggesting that fans of pop culture are among the most enthusiastic of Wikipedia's editors. Of course, the question emerges: Why are pop culture fans in particular so interested in editing Wikipedia? Building on previous research, I argue that fans want to take part in the production of the media that they enjoy, that Wikipedia allows editors to create their own paratext (i.e., the Wikipedia article) in relation to a main text (e.g., a movie, a television show, a book series), and that this paratext may be heavily used by the general public. Such usage is a form of implicit approval that affirms the editors' knowledge and encourages them to make more edits. Thus, Wikipedia validates the fan editor's work in a way that other outlets for participatory culture (e.g., fan fiction, fan art, songwriting) cannot.

Keywords


Fandom; Popular culture

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