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Collaborative knowledge construction in Wikipedia

Working groupKnowledge Construction Lab
Duration01/2015 - open
FundingLeibniz-WissenschaftsCampus Tübingen, IWM budget resources
Project description

Have you ever looked something up on Wikipedia? Or have you also contributed yourself to Wikipedia? Web 2.0 is changing processes of knowledge construction. The question is how knowledge develops on Wikipedia and how the individual Internet user influences the construction of knowledge in turn.

In the past, knowledge was documented by single persons in print formats. Nowadays, the construction of knowledge takes especially place on the Internet such as on Wikipedia. Moreover, knowledge construction is a collaborative process, i.e. knowledge is constructed by numerous persons working together on a Wikipedia article. Thereby, the processes of constructing knowledge are changing. On the basis of the coevolution model (Cress, Feinkohl, Jirschitzka, & Kimmerle, 2016; Cress & Kimmerle, 2008), we addressed two different research questions. The first question investigated how new knowledge is created on Wikipedia. We used automatic, computer-based linguistic techniques and social network analyses to examine huge amounts of dynamic data from Wikipedia. We found that pivotal articles regarding a certain topic function as a structural backbone within the networked knowledge system and played a key role for the generation of new knowledge. Moreover, popular and controversial articles enhanced the construction of knowledge in the same way.

The second question investigated how emotions of the individual Internet user are present in Wikipedia articles. To do so, we applied emotion theories stemming from social-psychological research to Wikipedia. Studies with Wikipedia articles suggested that Wikipedia articles on negative events contain rather sadness-related or anger-related content depending on the type of event (i.e., earthquake or terrorist attacks, respectively). Further studies demonstrated that this difference in emotional content is also more generally present in Wikipedia articles on disasters and man-made attacks, respectively. Subsequent laboratory studies replicated the effect of anger after man-made attacks. They also showed that threat is a mediator of these effects.


University of Tübingen, Department of Computer Science

Centre for European Economic Research, Mannheim


Greving, H., Oeberst, A., Kimmerle, J., & Cress, U. (2018). Emotional content in Wikipedia articles on negative man-made and nature-made events. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 37, 267-287. https://doi.org/10.1177/0261927X17717568 

Oeberst, A., Cress, U., Back, M., & Nestler, S. (2016). Individual versus collaborative information processing: The case of biases in Wikipedia. In U. Cress, J. Moskaliuk, & H. Jeong (Eds.), Mass collaboration and education (pp. 165-186). Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing.

Halatchliyski, I., & Cress, U. (2014). How structure shapes dynamics: Knowledge development in Wikipedia - A network multilevel modeling approach. PLoS ONE, 9, e111958.

Halatchliyski, I., Moskaliuk, J., Kimmerle, J., & Cress, U. (2014). Explaining authors’ contribution to pivotal artifacts during mass collaboration in the Wikipedia’s knowledge base. International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning, 9, 97-115.