Editorial Surveillance and the Management of Visibility in Peer Production

Christian Pentzold


This article investigates the scopic regimes of computer-mediated peer production and the possibilities for seeing, knowing, and governing that are entailed in its accomplishment. Examining the case of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the analysis takes a closer look at the everyday routines of mutual observation and the tools that authors have crafted to watch over each other through an archive of wiki-based activities. Based on a three-year ethnographic study among English- and German-language contributors, the article interrogates the technologically enabled gaze they direct to collaborative activities as a form of mutual editorial surveillance. Regarding the status of the knowledge circulated in such environments, it characterizes the management of visibility as an exploitation of both operational cognizance and nescience. In conclusion, the reciprocal information gathering by users about their peers invites to redraft, once again, concepts of panopticism commonly employed to describe modern societies of control and discipline.


surveillance, visibility, digital archive, online collaboration, peer production, panopticon, Wikipedia

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