“It is important to me, for example, that as a body of work grows it becomes even more easy to contribute to it, not less. Wikipedia, for all its accomplishments, has not achieved this dynamic.”
A line from an email discussion I was involved in earlier today. Not my line: someone else’s. Made me think.
Last week I explained to my class what a wiki was. The words “A wiki is a tool for the capture, extension, and dissemination of community knowledge.” came out of my mouth.
That’s not all a wiki is, of course. A wiki also embodies a theory on how best to serve that end. And it seems to me, after a deep dive into this, that the point of a wiki is a lot of things we value in both communties and publication get in the way of that core aim. Layout. Complex Markup. 404 pages. Workflows. Server-based compositing. Bureaucracy — formal or informal. Separation of edit and read modes. Complex citation requirements. Inability to access underlying page or chart data.
If there’s a good reason to dive into wiki — and really, to make wiki central to any digital literacy curriculum — it’s that a wiki makes these trade-offs obvious, in the way that a study of another culture gives us insight into our own. I think you can also make an argument that the wiki approach is underutilized, even today, and that the consequences of that are grave. But at the very least we can agree that digital literacy requires some familiarity with wikis and wiki culture — and I’m hoping that our fascination with the new and shiny is not pulling us away from that.