Wiki Writing Chapter 6: Wiki Motivation and Rewards

The reason why Wikipedia succeeds, and classroom wikis sometimes fail, is tied to the difference in the motivation and rewards that are resultant from contributing to a wiki. If there were not a difference in motivation and rewards, then why would the Vie and DeWinter tell us there is a need to break down the “banking concept of education”? Why not open all of academia to the open concept of free education on the Internet? Because, even in academia, there is a strong link between the motivation to produce and the rewards that result from the creation of intellectual property.

The reason Wikipedia succeeds and classroom wikis are a challenge are tied to motivation and rewards. Those who contribute to Wikipedia and other similar wikis are rewarded with psychic income.

What exactly is psychic income, and why does it apply to Wikipedia? Psychic income is defined as “the personal or subjective benefits, rewards, or satisfactions derived from a job or undertaking as separate from its objective or financial ones.” (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/psychic+income) Essentially, this means that the rewards of contributing to wikis are related to satisfaction that is not objective or financial in nature. Psychic income can be measured by the intrinsic value of the motivation. In other words, involvement in Wikipedia is driven by involvement in the process for its own sake, without any need or concern for outside rewards.

By contrast, classroom wikis are driven by the motivation to achieve. On a lower level, the student motivation is to avoid the pain of failure. Rewards are extrinsic, and tied directly to student participation and performance of the assigned task. The locus of control is not student-centered. It is the instructor who controls the assignment and the reward or punishment (failure).

Vie and DeWinter focused on using wikis as a means for students to “move beyond traditional notions of ownership and academic writing and into more collaborative, public discursive activities.” (111) In other words, students should be driven intrinsically to contribute to the collective discourse, rather than extrinsically motivated to achieve a certain grade or avoid failure. The concept is good, and can work if everyone approaches the group task with comparable levels of effort and capability. However, in practice, that is not always what happens. Differing levels of motivation directly relate to different levels of participation in a classroom wiki. This is where the resistance and conflict arises.

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