Layers of meaning at #Fedwikihappening
I am taking part in a two week experiment with a federated wiki, and this a good explanation of what it’s about. I don’t really know how I managed to get on board and sometimes feel like I got on the wrong train, and with a forged ticket, but I do know that I am privileged to be taking part. Mike Caulfield calls it a happening and he is an excellent event organiser. The really exciting thing is that Ward Cunningham, the creator of the original wiki and the smallest federated wiki, is present. Poor man, he has suffered two Google Hangouts with me, and I am still blundering around in the technology without much clue of what I am doing.
“I Saw a Nightmare…”Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976 tells the story of the Soweto uprising in South Africa in 1976. It sustains a narrative by the author, Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, and yet offers an archive including photos and stories in people’s own voices [http://www.gutenberg-e.org/pohlandt-mccormick/readersguide.html html].
This seems relevant to what we are doing at #fedwikihappening (FWH) but I am not sure how. I am still struggling with the idea of forking posts: it seems related but somehow very different from layers of meaning in the book about Soweto. There’s something about the wiki concept (in my mind at least) that assumes a sort of knowledge coherence within pages, even if different knowledges can exist in different forks. The dialogical layer takes place mainly on Twitter, and may not be visible to the reader. Sometimes commentary exists on a page but comments are discrete, not synthesised. For this reason, although I have uploaded some of the ideas in this post to #fedwikihappening, they are a sub set of what I have written here.
One of the activities participants have done is ‘idea mining’ where we go and find interesting snippets to bring to the happening with a little wrap-around for ourselves. I did this the other day with a blog post from Esko Kilpi, Advanced Work. Although I enjoyed reading the article, and thought it would be of interest at FWH, I had a critique of it that I have not yet shared on the wiki. This feels a bit like a dirty secret, that I am compromising my identity but I honestly don’t know how, socially and technically to bring my critique to FWH, or even if I should. And if critique is not appropriate at FWH, what does that mean for people’s voices and identities?
Although identity is discoverable (in theory at least) at FWH, close collaborative writing is encouraged without paying attention to who has written what.
Over time, memories similarly pass through layers upon layers of experience, and public and private thought and interpretation, and they are influenced by changing ideology and identity. In this way, all narratives changed with time.
I am really wondering about those ideas of ideology and identity. Of course, the people at FWH are really lovely, and don’t share violent experiences and history like Apartheid and the Soweto uprising, but cultural differences still exist. Within the temporary emergent culture of FWH, people come from different places (programmers, educators, researchers and random folk like me) and heading in different directions in the future.
Engaging in close collaborative writing at FWH reminds me of satisfying writing partnerships I have experienced where looking at the finished article, I can no longer see who wrote what in some parts, at least. But that collaboration took place within small groups with people I knew or came to know well.
Within larger groups – or community as FWH is styled – how will that work? And if we use neighbourhoods to form smaller groups, what about those who are excluded?
Helena Pohlandt-McCormick concludes the Soweto book with the sentence
“This book is about those and for those who helped me break silences.”
Can close collaborative writing on FWH help to break silences, or to make silences, or both?
mikecaulfield December 30, 2014 - 7:18 pm
First, let me say I absolutely want to see your critique of Kilpi. I know the extension of the article made a good story, and I jumped on that in ways that may have shut down the conversation prematurely. But honestly, to me, an article that wraps back around to criticism is an even better result. I love it when an exuberant article makes the turn to something more taut, something that contains conflicting views. To me, in fact, that’s one of the real values of the form — we’re encouraged to express conflicting and even logically inconsistent views.
So I hope you will do that — if that page has gotten too big, try a Related page called something like Critique of Kilpi, or Against Advanced Work.
Incidentally, this is also the mechanism we have to escape premature consensus — if the article is starting to feel a bit bounded, link the opposing view from the article, and start in a fresh field. If that opposing view is useful, the other writers will preserve the link, even if they may not agree with the linked page enough to fork it. This is different than WIkipedia where you push all views to share the same page so consensus must happen.
I’m also aware how contrived this is. I come back to that Third Place idea — what I eventually want is a mix of close friends and new people, the close friends for the sort of unguarded work that is possible there, the new people to continually refresh and extend our viewpoints and save us from fossilization. This is an amazing group of people, but it suffers a bit from the contrived nature of it. I’m interested in what occurs as it becomes more organic.
Thanks for this lovely post.
francesbell December 30, 2014 - 9:46 pm
Thanks so much for your reply Mike, I really appreciate the coverage you have demonstrated across FWH and here on the blogs..
I will have a go at incorporating a critique of parts of Advanced Work and see where that goes, if anywhere.
I did notice that you referred to ‘premature consensus’ and my toes curled a teeny tiny bit (hence my feelings of being on the wrong train:). I am still thinking about community and the boundedness of in-wiki knowledge. I will try to include that in my later reflections.
You say that you want close friends and new folks to fend off fossilisation. That is perhaps looking at third places from an individual perspective. I am curious about the ‘community’ and external perspectives – the cosier the close friends get, the harder it is for ‘new people’ to contribute. This post and comments might explain a bit https://francesbell.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/knowledge-transfer-old-wine-in-new-bottles-or-how-many-contentious-statements-can-i-make-in-one-blog-post/
I am still struggling with neighbourhoods – and will try to learn more and reflect.