The networked life of professional encyclopaedias: Quantification, tradition, and trustworthiness

Olof Sundin, Jutta Haider


This paper aims at making visible new orders of encyclopaedic knowledge by means of an ethnographic study carried out during eight months at the editorial office of the leading commercial encyclopaedia in Sweden, Nationalencyklopedin (NE). The investigation is framed in a socio-technical understanding of how people, technologies and practices relate to each other. Three themes were identified during the analysis: Organisation of labour amongst the editors, the use of statistics, and NE as a producer of facts versus a producer of analysis. The analysis revolves around the ambivalence, uncertainty, sometimes even friction, between traditional encyclopaedic knowledge and network culture. The often routine-based practices of updating articles meets ideas of project work, of open data, of algorithms and most of all of quantification.


encyclopaedia, trust, quantification, epistemic cultures, Gabriel Tarde

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