Thanks to Gardner Campbell for recommending this short, but fascinating, video about one Wikipedia page transformation over time: Jon Udell: Heavy metal umlaut (temporary link until the original one becomes available again). The evolution from single sentence to accepted full page is a good example of how what Udell calls “a loose federation of worldwide volunteers” can commit to creating an honest and valid record of cultural history.
Why would this be interesting to you? Well, it would be a great example to students of the value of editing to produce good quality writing (and Campbell echoes this idea). What if your students were assigned, alone or in groups, to work in a wiki to create a report or write a paper that showed all their revising history? It would be a terrific record for students who generally write over existing text when revising in a word-processing program and lose those previous passages. In one sense, the wiki space allows us to return to that world of manuscripts and handwritten notes that have thrilled students of textual studies for decades. More importantly, it would give today’s digital students a deeper connection to their writing processes and make them better writers and thinkers.
I’d love to hear about your experiments with wikis in your courses.