Stigmergic Coordination in Wikipedia

Publication Type:





Coordination, distributed groups, on-line epistemic community, Stigmergy, Wikipedia


We examine a novel approach to coordination, namely stigmergic coordination, that is, coordination mediated by changes to a shared work product. Stigmergy stands in contrast to the two coordination approaches identified in the existing literature on coordination, explicit coordination, based on direct communication through discussion page or user talk pages, and implicit coordination, based on unspoken expectations and shared mental models of the task to be accomplished. We look for evidence of stigmergic coordination in the context of Wikipedia, as one of the most successful experiments in online collaborative knowledge building. Using a novel approach to identifying edits to the same part of a Wikipedia article, we show that a majority of edits to two example articles are not associated with discussion on the article Talk page, suggesting the possibility of stigmergic coordination. However, some amount of discussion does seem to be related to article quality, suggesting the limits to this approach to coordination.