Or perhaps a better, less pretentious, way of putting it is
a wiki is a way of organizing a community around a written project - even a community of one or two.
"A bunch of human beings communicating via a Collective Notepad" [http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiCommunity]
or, a wiki
"Is typing in a bunch of book titles and coming back a day later and finding them turned into birds in the Amazon.... Writing on Wiki is like regular writing, except I get to write so much more than I write, and I get to think thoughts I never thought." [http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiNature]
At any rate, a wiki is a writing culture: not just a reading culture (which is a book club).
Cultures organize themselves around their terminology and their topics. How the topics are named and clustered on the wiki indicates what the culture is about, what it values, how it's members think about the world.
For instance, have a look at these two entry pages - indexes of topics welcoming visitors (where else do we talk about writing as visiting?)
- [http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?MeatballWiki MeatballWiki]. "MeatballWiki aspires to be a community of communities: an intercommunity or metacommunity. It deals with online culture, especially how people online come together naturally in groups."
- [http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiWikiWeb Portland Pattern Repository WikiWikiPage] "This is a web site written by its users. Anyone can change any page or create new pages! "
Sometimes [http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WhyWikiWorks wiki works]
- because it appeals to a group of people who share an interest in reading and writing
- because it's organized around consensus
- because it gives participants time to think
- because everyone can engage in the full set of composing strategies
- create topics
- cut topics
- revise topics
- link topics
- comment on topics writing by others
- restructure topics
- because everyone can create their own way of structuring the space
And sometimes wiki works not. That is, wikis have human and cultural limitations, as [http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WhyWikiWorksNot the Wiki works not page] on WikiWikiWeb discusses (literally discusses. As of Feb, 20032, this page was still in ThreadMode.)
That is, wiki works or doesn't depending on how people get along 'rhetorically'.
All rhetorics address social / cultural interactions as much as they do inventional and compositional strategies. Without a sense of culture, we woud not be able toform an argument. But on a wiki, where writiing is open, the cultural comes to the fore: The definition of rhetoric that speaks to why wikis work is Quintilian's: "A good person speaking well." [http://www.molloy.edu/academic/philosophy/sophia/Quintilian/quintilian.htm summary material on Q] and WikiRhetoric
Cultures have conventions and guidelines for rhetorical citizenship. Engage them and you earn respect. Flaunt them and risk being ostracised or - even worse - being ignored. So wikis have guides to local composing customs:
As wikis help organize writing cultures, the conventions speak to writing style and adjusting style to purpose: to communicate, to create knowledge collaboratively.
- [http://sofer.com/cgi-bin/ArtTherapyWiki?GoodStyle Good Style page at Art Therapy Wiki] - and note how writing style here includes "practice civility."
But conventions are created over time and by participants. The guidelines are often left open to develop on the wiki.
- [http://biro.bemidjistate.edu/cgi/notebook.pl?NotesTowardsARhetoricOfWiki Notes Towards a Rhetoric of Wiki]
As well, most wiki software has navigation tools
- Entry Point or home page
- Recent Changes
Some wikis show their cultural orientation more than others, which is to say some are more specialized and so roll in a more specialized group than others.
To get oriented, ask yourself "Who am I being asked to be when I'm here? What roles am I being asked to play? What am I being asked to value and to do?" That's always a more useful question than "Who's the audience for this wiki?"
And when exploring new wiki cultures, use the idea that hypertext is topical writing, and that cultures organize themselves around their terminology and topics.
* Look at the topics on the entry points or home pages: how they are named and how they are clustered. This gives you a sense of what the culture values, how it's members think about the world, and who you are being asked to be.
Here's a sample. It's best to visit the wikis to get the flavor of them.
[http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?MeatballWiki MeatballWiki] and [http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiWikiWeb Portland Pattern Repository WikiWikiPage] Two of the first wikis. Look at [http://www.usemod.com/cgi-bin/mb.pl?OnlineCulture MeaballWiki's OnlineCulture page] to get a sense of how that community looks at culture: topics.
[http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page Wikipedia The Free Encyclopedia]
: "Wikipedia is a free encyclopedia that is being written collaboratively by the readers of this web site. The site is a WikiWiki, meaning that anyone, including you, can edit any article right now by clicking on the edit this page link that appears in every article in Wikipedia.
: "The project was started on January 15, 2001 and we are already working on 102884 articles in English, with many more articles being written in other languages, too. As more and more people edit the articles, they improve in quality all the time.
: "All of our articles are covered by the GNU Free Documentation License, to ensure that they can remain freely available forever. We hope you will enjoy using and contributing to this valuable free resource. " [http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:About About]
:"This is a wiki for the community of people who are doing battle with spam. Everyone should feel free to edit and add to these pages (see the link to do so in the upper left corner). The idea is to enable the community to work together to create a list of tools and resources."
: An international collective of resources. [http://sofer.com/cgi-bin/ArtTherapyWiki?ArtTherapy]
[http://www.voght.com/cgi-bin/pywiki?KmWiki KmWiki] (km = knowledge management) Denham Grey
: "Wiki is more than just social writing, easy and intuitive web publishing and the ability to do hypertext. There is the potential to anneal joint meaning, synthesize something greater than the direct combination of individual parts, there is the potential for building a community ethos around direct collaboration at the artifact level....
: "This is an experiment in collaboration. I'm keen to see if we can generate something more appealing from this open approach than happens in password protected web communities. I'm keen to explore the ethics, dynamics and practices around refactoring & annealing text, ideas, perceptions, claims and personal writings. "
* This wiki is based on the idea that knowledge is contained in words and so can be commodified. Here, you're a knowledge manager: someone interested in collecting, linking, collocating... um, knoweldge artifacts.
[http://www.weblogKitchen.com/wiki.cgi?WelcomeVisitors Weblog Kitchen] A wiki "about research in weblogs, wikis, and related hypertext technologies" created and managed by Mark Bernstein at Eastgate.com.
* Look at the topical index in the left hand navigation You're a researcher here: both contributing to and gathering from.
[http://www.robbyrussell.com/ Robby Russell WikiWeb]
* A personal wiki, partially open to editing by visitors. Part bio, part portfolio: I read it as a hypertextual construction of a life - no soundtrack - full of personally associative links and cross connections. Differentiated from a blog because it organized topically rather than chronologically
[http://www.buyorganic.org/live BuyOrganic] An example of a community organization wiki. Coupled with a blog.
[http://www.teachingwiki.com/ TeachingWiki.com] or try [http://teaching.etdguide.com/openwiki/ teaching.etdguide.com] Joe Moxley, USF.
* One subsection is for a Computers and Composition course:
: "We're using this Wiki space to reflect on composing processs, rhetoric and composition theory, teaching and learning with technology, and tools for writers (especially this wiki). We're assuming this work may be of interest to other "technorhetoricians." Our audience, in short, is other members of the computers and composition community. "
[http://www2.iro.umontreal.ca/~paquetse/cgi-bin/om.cgi?Seb's_OpenMind Seb's Open Mind] An academic's notebook, or as Seb put it "my personal memex," and "like a diary or weblog, " or even " a personal hyperlinked informal ontology."
* An interesting page is his [http://www2.iro.umontreal.ca/~paquetse/cgi-bin/om.cgi?How_I_Build_My_OpenMind How I build my OpenMind], which shows how Seb uses topical writing to organize the structure.
: "Just as I do with my physical brain, I am inclined to link an item to related items as densely as possible, so that there are many ways to reach it. Think network, not tree. Links may be added at any time during the lifetime of the page. I think the central challenge lies in avoiding linking sloppily, as in the long term I believe it'll get me confused. Overall the thing is pretty anarchic, but order emerges over the long term, at least for the pages that I end up visiting repeatedly. Actually I'd be afraid if it were to become very well ordered; I would take this to mean that I'm no longer learning anything... "
[http://huminf.uib.no/~jill/ jill/txt]. Ok, so it's really a blog, but I include it here as an example of an academic blog to emulate. See her stuff on [http://cmc.uib.no/jill/archives/blogtheory.html Blog Theory].
see also ExampleWikis for other cultures: activist, personal, pedagogical | BlogAsCulture