Quick Thoughts About Purpose & Community

I’ve been thinking a lot about the purpose of the UBC Wiki. Wikipedia has a pretty narrowly defined purpose: it is an encyclopedia. Only content that fits with their mission of being an encyclopedia is allowed to remain.  Inherit in that mission is the idea that an encyclopedia is read by a lot of people and that any content will be read and edited by larger community. This purpose provides Wikipedia with a focus which helps it to be organized and to grow.

So, what is the purpose of the UBC Wiki? According to the masthead, the UBC Wiki is a space for use by students, staff, and faculty for whatever purpose, whether it be teaching and learning, research, or community engagement. The UBC Wiki has, by design, a pretty unfocused definition that doesn’t limit how people can use the site.  Thus some people use it as an individual work space and some use it as a community resource for knowledge sharing.

The advantages of using the wiki as an individual space is that people can use the wiki pretty much how they want, it is clearly filling a need, and the wiki is a great tool for group collaboration. The disadvantage, however, is that people tend to get frustrated when when content they see as “theirs” gets renamed or edited and this might cause them to never use the wiki again. Likewise, people might be hesitant to edit or add to content that they think of as “yours”.

As a community resource, the wiki has the potential to really facilitate knowledge sharing across the departmental, faculty, and other boundaries that all universities have. However, in order to for the wiki to be a community resource, information on the wiki must be accessible. This means not only does the info need to be somewhat organized but also there needs to be a change in how people are thinking about the wiki: yes, it can be a personal work space but it is also a community shared space.

I think the UBC Wiki can work both as an individual tool and as a community resource. The different namespaces allow the UBC Wiki to serve both purposes. However, I think for the namespaces to work, users need to have a better understanding of both purposes.

I guess this is all a long way of explaining that the I changed the wording in the masthead from saying that the UBC Wiki is a space to saying that it is a shared space.

About Will (WikiAdmin)

Hi, my name is Will and my user name on the UBC Wiki isWikiAdministrator (I didn't choose it). The UBC Wiki is administered by the Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology
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1 Response to Quick Thoughts About Purpose & Community

  1. Pingback: Gardening the wiki, order in chaos

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