Imagine a world

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This page is the English part of a PhD thesis written on French Wikiversity (Lire en français)

PhD student : Lionel Scheepmans

Discipline : Social and cultural anthropology

Thesis promoter : Olivier Servais.

Members of the accompanying board : Pierre-Joseph Laurent, Christophe Lazaro, Emmanuel Wathelet.

Institution : Université catholique de Louvain.

See the main research page translated in English or translate it in your own languages.

Review the first part of the research in English or in your own language and welcome to discuss or comment it.


In the shadow of the Wikipedia project, which celebrated its twentieth anniversary at the beginning of 2021, a social movement has developed that is practically unknown to the public and which is called "The Wikimedia Movement". Very little publicized, both by the press and by scientific literature, this social movement nevertheless takes care of nearly a thousand websites and brings together several hundred intercultural organizations spread over more than 70 nations.

Extremely cosmopolitan, but also very revolutionary in its values and practices, the Wikimedia movement is such an original social phenomenon that it had to be made visible and understandable to everyone. The present work therefore attempts to respond to this need on the basis of numerous digital archives, 10 years of participant observation and the implementation of innovative ethnographic practices.

At the heart of its mission, the Wikimedia Movement imagines a world in which every human being can freely share the sum of all knowledge. This vision of the world will undoubtedly have inspired the purpose of this research work, since beyond human knowledge and in the respect of a tradition specific to prospective anthropology, it is also the future of the university and of the globalized and digitalized society that is at stake.

Chapter by chapter, this research work first provides a practical and methodological context before embarking on the discovery of an organization so vast and complex that it is easy to get lost in the absence of an initial overview. We then approach the prehistory of the webspace which will allow us to better situate the movement in relation to its origins and its stakes, but also with the aim of assimilating a minimum of knowledge on the digital space in which the major part of the Wikimedia activities take place.

Then comes a monographic fresco, so dear to anthropologists, which allows us to give body and life to this singular human, global and digital adventure. We discover the history of the Wikimedia movement and its drifts, its actors as well as its culture, or rather its cultures, since important cultural differences appear between the online and offline spheres within the movement. The conclusion of the research is made in an eighth and last chapter where we summarize what the Wikimedia movement has taught us in order to imagine the global and digital society of tomorrow of which the Wikimedia movement could be the avant-garde reflection.

(Translated with the help of free

See also for English part an exploratory phase in Ghana from 1st to 20th September 2017