Imagine a world

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This page is the summary of a PhD thesis on the Wikimedia movement written on French Wikiversity.

You can read its automatic translation on many languages from this page, and discuss or comment it on this talk page (Don't use the French talk page automatically translated, it doesn't work !)

PhD Student : Lionel Scheepmans

Discipline : Social and political Science

Promoter : Olivier Servais.

Accompanying board : Pierre-Joseph Laurent, Christophe Lazaro, Emmanuel Wathelet.

Institution : Laboratory of Prospective Anthropology / Institute of for the Analysis of Change in Contemporary and Historical Societies (LAAP/IACCHOS), Université catholique de Louvain.


In the shadow of the Wikipedia project, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary in early 2021, a social movement has developed which is virtually unknown to the public. It is called the "Wikimedia movement" and its vision is to build a world in which every human being can freely share the sum of all knowledge. Very little publicized, both by the press and by scientific literature, this movement brings together nearly a thousand websites and several hundred associations in more than 70 nations around the world. It is also the only non-profit actor present in the top 50 of web traffic. As a direct heir to the values and practices developed by the free software movement, Wikimedia finally appears as a global expression of a counter-culture that opposes market capitalism while challenging a global and elitist socio-political system.

Faced with this observation, the objective of this work is to make the Wikimedia movement visible and understandable to all to analyse the societal issues at stake. To do so, this socio-anthropological study is based on more than 10 years of participant observation, enriched by countless digital archives collected on the web. This historical, empirical, and ethnographic approach is part of a prospective anthropology whose ambition is to maintain an engaged debate on the future of human societies. The bias of this study will of course be to focus on the development of a global and digital society, of which the Wikimedia movement appears to be one of the privileged reflections.

After presenting the organizational complexity of the Wikimedia galaxy, this research will first look at the roots of the movement, to better understand the computer space in which it was born, but also to find that eternal desire for freedom, autonomy, and equality that opposes political control and privatization of wealth. A historical analysis of the Wikimedia movement then allows us to observe the implementation of the free knowledge sharing system within which we can see, however, some drifts by mimicry of the surrounding system.

The Wikimedia actors are then presented statistically and descriptively before addressing the cultural particularities of the movement. These are closely linked to the transparency of the Wikimedia digital environment, which favours mutual control and involvement. The theme of human imagination is then developed to draw a lesson from this study of the Wikimedia movement. It is then time to conclude from these last ideas by offering new perspectives on the future of human societies. This work finally ends with a final chapter dedicated to the methodological, ethical, and epistemic questions raised by the realization of a written study within the very heart of what is observed. An experience that invites to think about science in a more democratic and therefore participative way.

(Translated with the help of free and

A report of an exploratory phase in Ghana from 1st to 20th September 2017 is also available on en.wikiversity