Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Quickly, Quickly

Spring Break begins tomorrow. No beach-side cabana and umbrella-garnished cocktails in my foreseeable future. Just life at a slightly altered (i.e., re-charging) pace until classes resume on March 8. I believe this is the earliest Spring Break I've ever had.

In classes, we wrapped up a three-week unit on wiki writing today. The assignment went something like this: for twenty-one days, assume various roles in the production of a wiki--facilitation, discussion, research, entry writing, editing, and coding. Last semester I set up groups. This semester I didn't. My aim with the wiki assignment has always been to immerse in the mess, to dive in, or, for the more cautious, to wade through some quick compositional emergence, or distributed, self-paced, collaborative writing. All the while, we should keep in mind the question of what is stylistically available in wiki writing. There is no single answer to this, of course, but it seems like wiki writing often (I am tempted to say "always") returns to an "average effect," more studium than punctum.

I'm not sure we fully achieved the mess I had in mind. A snow day on February 10 threw off the early development of the project. Facilitation and early discussion was cut short. Twelve days into the project I brought graphs to class--a simple activity distribution curved, as you might have guessed, like a long tail. A few had done much work; many had done much less, just like on Wikipedia. Also, the graph reflected two data-sets, one for number of edits and one for frequency of logins. So that everyone processes the assignment by a distributed pace rather than a climactic pace, the prompt encouraged logging in and making identifiable contributions every other day or so. Halfway in, this wasn't quite working. But the graph confronted us with the problem, and, consequently, it moved us collectively nearer to the quick-writing messiness I had in mind. For the remaining nine days, the wiki came alive--to the tune of 38 contributors, an impressive blur of edits, revisions, and rearrangement.

Certainly we gained some experience with wiki writing--wiki writing connected with our continuing inquiry into style and technology. And, for the most part, I stand by this approach (i.e., will try it again), even if it still has a few wrinkles to smooth out. I prefer it to a common alternative, which is something like wiki-as-showcase, where the wiki functions as a platform for sharing individually authored pieces, where collaboration is predefined, where discrete contributions carry over into some kind of portfolio or autonomous collection of best works (many variations on this, to be fair). The showcase approach to wiki writing is fine, but I want to continue to think through the near-aleatory, massively collaborative chaos available in wikis and to think through the this chaotic approach for a school assignment and for the question of what is stylistically available. How? I'll begin by reading and commenting 36 or so reflective essays over the next couple of days.

Bookmark and Share Posted by at February 24, 2010 10:20 PM to Dry Ogre Chalking

Ha! Well, just remember two things about EMU:

* Just as we don't have "spring term" this time of year, but rather "winter term," we also have "winter break" as opposed to "spring break." I don't think it's ever been later than the first week of March around here.

* One of the great things about EMU's slightly idiosyncratic schedule-- actually, the wonderful thing about it-- is we almost always complete the entire winter term by the end of April. Once I think there were finals in May. That's sweet.

Posted by: Steve Krause at February 26, 2010 2:59 PM

I will call it <anythingyouwant> Break, as long as "Break" is included. Although, I just looked at EMU's home page and there's some official press release with "Spring Break" in it. Looks like I'm not the only one off message.

Whatever we call it, I'm enjoying it. And, indeed, I'm looking forward to a last class of the Winter semester being April 14 (with exams coming in on April 19). Wow, that's early. And by "Wow," I mean something like "Hurray!"

Posted by: Derek at February 26, 2010 3:08 PM