(Via James, who has much to say on this as well…) This piece by Ulises Mejias takes a look at the writing process in wikis as a way to understand the need for what he calls a “social literacy” now needed when tackling collaborative writing spaces.
Thus, social literacy…does not refer to the skills necessary to perform in society, but to the use of the resource of writing in social contexts. Social literacy amounts to the textual practices not (as has been true so far) of a single author, but of multiple and simultaneous authors. Wikis make social literacy apparent by allowing us to witness the evolution of text in time, and evolution that reflects the decisions not of a single individual, but of a community.
In keeping the focus on literacy in the context of writing, this post does much to identify the ways in which we are going to need to prepare students for the negotiation of content and style that is going to be required to navigate these collaborative spaces. And there is much to say about the educational benefits of using wikispace to create content, but not to use it as a discussion space.
There are plenty of other online tools better equipped to support an Initiation-Reply mode of conversation (such as discussion boards for collective dialogue, or blogs and email for more individualized forms of exchange). If appropriate, these tools can be used in conjunction with wikis. But the whole point of wikis is to de-prioritize the individual voice in favor of the collective voice, which dictates the structure and content of the text. This, of course, is a literacy which most individuals in our societies are unaccustomed to. Which is why scaffolding wikis with other technologies that support more traditional forms of communication might be an adequate strategy.
Worth wrapping your brain around if you’re trying to find some context for wikis in your practice…