Reimagining the Wiki: a roundtable reflection on C&W 2014

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The DRC Fellows would like to thank everyone who came to and participated in our session at C&W. We thought it might be fun to write a reflective post that recaps what we learned from feedback on our presentation and the conference overall. With this post, we’d like to create a bridge between what we did this past year and where we are looking to go.

The C&W Community

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C&W 2014 theme. Image source: http://siteslab.org/cwcon/2014/cfp

Lindsey: For me, I was most excited to hear feedback about innovative uses of our wiki to carve out a space online that captures more of the essence of the Computers and Writing community. At the conference, the sense of community was overwhelming, and the positive, infectious energy generated by a group of engaged scholars and teachers brought together on a single campus for a couple days was palpable. More so than at any other conference I’ve been at did I feel a strong longing to be part of the group; at the same time, I felt almost equally the community reaching out to me. What an incredible dynamic!

So in thinking about the DRC wiki specifically and what we hope to accomplish with it, I feel increasingly the need to embody this sense of community, of belonging, of reaching out.

Laura: I agree that replicating the sense of community many feel at C&W would be a great goal for our site and Wiki.

Actionable Items
But what does this look like in practical terms? How do we do this? Here are two ideas.

1. Authorship and the DRC Wiki.

Lindsey: Adding author bylines, Twitter handles, and thumbnail images to the wiki. Instead of the writing standing on its own, I think giving credit to wiki authors and editors will go a long way to encouraging and improving participation. Let’s help innovate scholarly and digital publication by giving credit to those who do work for the wiki so they, in turn, can include that work on their CVs. Double win.

Laura: I really appreciated the feedback we received from our session attendees regarding ways we can implement some sense of authorship in our Wiki. This could also be a way for us to get more classes involved in contributing to the wiki–maybe we can have announcement posts sharing the classes and schools we are working with to populate wiki entries. This could create a sense of community among universities and classrooms across the country who use the wiki for specific pedagogical purposes.

Becca: I agree with Lindsey and Laura that expanding or breaking with wiki conventions in some areas seems like a leading way we could encourage more participation. Academics are busy people, and especially at the beginnings of our careers we tend to – hell, have to to some extent – privilege activities that expand our portfolios and reputations as scholars. Adding author tags seems like a (relatively) simple way to move wiki contribution into that circle. But even more than that, it points at a question I think is very important but I’m not sure I’d thought of until now – what (if any) are the differences between an academic wiki and a “regular” one?

The Academic Wiki Interlude

Becca: If the mission of an academic wiki is to serve as a scholarly resource, a place those of us doing scholarly work can go to find reliable and field-contextualized information, then I think that definitely yes, an academic wiki should work differently in some ways. Exactly what those ways are is bound up with more precisely defining the difference between “regular” and academic wikis, and the mission of any particular instance. But I’d argue that the most basic difference is an increased expectation of reliability, or at least a greater ability for readers to make decisions about the reliability of what they read. Author tags therefore make a lot of sense in this context. Even more since within the smaller and field-specific (even, in our case, sub-field-specific) audiences these wikis address, there’s a potential for recognition of those authors and their associated ethos that doesn’t really exist in wikis with more generalized audiences.

2. Wiki Writing Revisited.

Lindsey: Revisiting wiki entries as a genre and pushing on the conventions. This means that while we can start with guidelines and models for wiki entries and encyclopedic writing to think about contributions to the DRC wiki, we then need to go the next step and ask: What else can we include? What other sorts of writing? What other topics? What other categories could we use? I think it would be really cool as a wiki reader to be surprised by an entry – either its content or form. This move would also encourage us to consider design and how form can be used along with content to make meaning. Plus, it might position us to be at the cutting edge of digital publication that merges critical and creative writing. That seems like a really exciting and important place to be.

Laura: I also really like the idea of playing with the format of Wiki entries. I wonder if we can start by having people contribute posts with multimodal components, like videos or animations illustrating a specific concept, and then we can think of a way to transition these into wiki entries? We could even start by turning some of our “small gesture” blog carnival contributions into entries.

Becca: Based on the feedback we received, expanding/updating the DRC wiki’s attribution and entry form/style conventions seems like the clear way forward to increased participation. And I think the first step in establishing what those changes should be is to think about what kinds of conventions/entry styles best support the wiki’s overall purpose, and look at where that picture overlaps with what we heard from our audience. And we might check out what precedents exist among existing academic wikis for creating new conventions and entry “genres” – for example, I know the Kairos praxiswiki includes clear attribution for entries akin to standard article bylines. This is an exciting line of thought! It opens questions that go beyond just our wiki but into the field and genre as a whole.

Stay tuned as we consider and call upon the Computers and Writing community to reimagine the DRC wiki.

Have your own reflections on this year’s C&W? Share them with us! Check out our forum discussion here, leave a comment, or tweet at us (@SweetlandDRC).

About Author(s)

Lindsey Harding graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2015 with her Ph.D. in English. She is now the Assistant Director of the Writing Intensive Program at UGA. Her research and writing interests include composition and rhetoric, creative writing, and digital humanities. In May 2011, she graduated from Sewanee University’s School of Letters with her M.F.A. in creative writing. She earned her B.A. from Columbia University in 2004. She lives in Athens, Georgia, with her husband and three small children.

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