This paper focuses on the potential societal function of Wikipedia beyond serving as an encyclopedia. That is, it assesses both theoretically and empirically whether talk pages (TP) – Wikipedia discussion sites that accompany the encyclopedic entries and provide spaces for debates among Wikipedia editors – may function as transnational public spheres. Despite the increasing number of studies on citizen engagement and participation in the age of social media, Wikipedia as an example of the participatory internet has received little research attention in this regard. This study redresses this research gap in two steps. Drawing on Habermas’ concept of the public sphere and Fraser's and Eriksen's modifications thereof, Wikipedia's – specifically the TPs’ – modus operandi is explored to evaluate whether TPs may serve as spaces for transnational political opinion formation. This theoretical exploration is complemented with an empirical assessment of a TP dedicated to the EU. The case study addresses if/to what degree Wikipedia editors have appropriated the TP to function as a transnational public sphere. Findings indicate that Wikipedia TPs can – and do – serve as general transnational public spheres.
Austrian Classification of Fields of Science and Technology (ÖFOS)