Reflection on EMU Wiki and Wikipedia

As I was observing the instructor of Group B English composition class draw a revision target on the board this morning, it occurred to me that the EMU Wiki collaborative site is a place where we have to decide if we are going to make changes from a writer’s perspective, a reader’s perspective, or an editor’s perspective. The target consisted of an outer circle marked “writer”, a second smaller circle marked “reader” and the smallest center circle marked editor. The instructor was explaining to the students that they would be revising their essays from these three perspectives. This got me thinking about what happens on a wiki.

The very first time I logged in to the EMU Wiki, not knowing exactly what I was doing, I added a new strain to the page. I had to be made a writer by the instructor so I could edit the site, how embarrassing. This was a new adventure I was embarking on taking ENGL444, Writing on the World Wide Web. Writing the wiki was just one of our assignments. The word wiki comes from the Hawaiian word that means quick (Shirky 111). Wiki’s promote “quick” edits. Wiki’s like Wikipedia are alive with constant collaborative editing, revising, and new additions.

The second time I visited the EMU Wiki I was intimidated by the whole collaborative aspect, because I felt uncomfortable making changes to another person’s writing. When I made my first change to the Pre-College Programs: SIP page it was a frightening but empowering experience. Before making any changes I read the page several times and asked myself what was missing, what wasn’t clear, what could I change and make clearer? This type of thinking was from a writer’s perspective. I added to the “Expectations During SIP” portion of the page. As a writing consultant for SIP for the second summer, I felt it was important to include in the “Expectations” description “writing consultants and supplemental instructors” so that the sentence included the whole team.

Students will not be tardy to class or study sessions and they will work on assignments in study sessions, and turn in all assignments on time or face the consequences laid out by their professors, writing consultants and supplemental instructors.

This was a good addition to the information on this page, made from a writer’s point of view, it offered a way for me to overcame my concern of changing another person’s writing.

The second time, I edited the Holman Success Center page. I made a minor revision by adding the word ‘Halle” before the word library, so the instructions were more detailed and specific. The one word “Halle” told the reader the name of the library being referred to in the directions. I made this edit from a reader’s point of view to clarify the directions for future readers.

After I signing up on Wikipedia it automatically logs me in when I visit the page.  I’ve thought about editing the Alzheimer’s disease caregiving section because I wanted to share my personal experience and knowledge. I see the page from a writer’s point of view, and ask myself the same questions I did visiting the EMU Wiki, what is missing, what isn’t clear, and what could I add to this information as a caregiver? I’ve tried a couple of times to add a paragraph but have not accomplished it yet. The formatting is not as simple as it looks. I’ve read the “How to edit a page” but haven’t figured out what I’m doing incorrectly.

The first time I checked Wikipedia Alzheimer’s disease page was on July 6. I checked it again on July 17 and I noticed that on both times it had been updated that day. The page contains a lot of graphics along with medical and research information, so it takes about twenty seconds to fully load, which seems like a long time. There are two hundred forty-three references listed at the bottom of the page as compared to sixty-two on the dementia page and fifteen on the caregivers and dementia page.

I chose this page because my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease six and half years ago.  Of course it was a diagnosis by eliminating all the other possibilities, because there still isn’t a definitive way to diagnose this disease other than a postmortem biopsy of the brain. My father is now into the moderate stage of the disease and he participates in the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center (MADRC). MADRC puts on a conference each fall, which my sister and I attend to keep us abreast of the latest research. By watching this page I was curious as to how often it would be updated with information pertaining to caregiving. The newest reference in this section is dated 2008 and pertains to nutrition. There is little to no information about living arrangements in independent living facilities like my Dad’s, which is what I wanted to add to the page.

Wikipedia is a twenty-first century phenomenon of collaboration on the World Wide Web and is “one of the most visited sites in the world” states Shirky (109). As Cummings explains “Wikipedia has fundamentally and finally altered epistemology itself—our commonly held ideas about knowledge” (2). This phenomenon of collaboration is a space where I can potentially edit a page on Alzheimer’s disease caregiving and contribute to the knowledge about the disease. I understand why Shirky calls a wiki “a hybrid of tool and community” (136), because as a citizen of the world I can use this tool and share my experience and knowledge right from my own study.

Like writing, the Wikipedia site is a process not a product, a process of collaboration (Shirky 139). And because it is like writing all the revising techniques, like the revision target I spoke of in the beginning, apply to all Wikis. My short time observing and participating in this type of collaborative site has been both fascinating and frustrating. I would like to continue my participation in this type of writing. Finally, I achieved an addition to the Wikipedia Alzhiemer’s page in the diagnostic criteria section with an article from the New York Times titled “Rare Sharing of Data Led to Progress on Alzhiemer’s.” It felt good to add a positive aspect to the Wikipedia page.

Works Cited

Cummings, Robert E. “What Was a Wiki, and Why Do I Care? A Short and Usable

History of Wikis.” Wiki Writing: Collaborative Learning in the College

Classroom. Ed. Robert E. Cummings and Matt Barton. Ann Arbor: University of            Michigan Press, 2008. Print.

Shirky, Clay. Here Comes Everybody. New York: Penquin Press, 2008. Print.