Layers of meaning at #Fedwikihappening

I am taking part in a two week experiment with a federated wiki, and this a good explanation of what it’s about.  I don’t really know how I managed to get on board and sometimes feel like I got on the wrong train, and with a forged ticket, but I do know that I am privileged to be taking part. Mike Caulfield calls it a happening and he is an excellent event organiser. The really exciting thing is that Ward Cunningham, the creator of the original wiki and the smallest federated wiki, is present. Poor man, he has suffered two Google Hangouts with me, and I am still blundering around in the technology without much clue of what I am doing.

Tennis Court Anisa C

“I Saw a Nightmare…”Doing Violence to Memory: The Soweto Uprising, June 16, 1976 tells the story of the Soweto uprising in South Africa in 1976.  It sustains a narrative by the author, Helena Pohlandt-McCormick, and yet offers an archive including photos and stories in people’s own voices [ html].

This seems relevant to what we are doing at #fedwikihappening (FWH) but I am not sure how.  I am still struggling with the idea of forking posts: it seems related but somehow very different from layers of meaning in the book about Soweto.  There’s something about the wiki concept (in my mind at least) that assumes a sort of knowledge coherence within pages, even if different knowledges can exist in different forks. The dialogical layer takes place mainly on Twitter, and may not be visible to the reader. Sometimes commentary exists on a page but comments are discrete, not synthesised.  For this reason, although I have uploaded some of the ideas in this post to #fedwikihappening, they are a sub set of what I have written here.

One of the activities participants have done is ‘idea mining’ where we go and find interesting snippets to bring to the happening with a little wrap-around for ourselves.  I did this the other day with a blog post from Esko Kilpi, Advanced Work.  Although I enjoyed reading the article, and thought it would be of interest at FWH, I had a critique of it that I have not yet shared on the wiki.  This feels a bit like a dirty secret, that I am compromising my identity but I honestly don’t know how, socially and technically to bring my critique to FWH, or even if I should.  And if critique is not appropriate at FWH, what does that mean for people’s voices and identities?

Although identity is discoverable (in theory at least) at FWH, close collaborative writing is encouraged without paying attention to who has written what.

Quote from McCormick

Over time, memories similarly pass through layers upon layers of experience, and public and private thought and interpretation, and they are influenced by changing ideology and identity. In this way, all narratives changed with time.

I am really wondering about those ideas of ideology and identity. Of course, the people at FWH are really lovely, and don’t share violent experiences and history like Apartheid and the Soweto uprising, but cultural differences still exist.  Within the temporary emergent culture of FWH, people come from different places (programmers, educators, researchers and random folk like me) and heading in different directions in the future.

Engaging in close collaborative writing at FWH reminds me of satisfying writing partnerships I have experienced where looking at the finished article, I can no longer see who wrote what in some parts, at least. But that collaboration took place within small groups with people I knew or came to know well.

Within larger groups – or community as FWH is styled – how will that work?  And if we use neighbourhoods to form smaller groups, what about those who are excluded?

Helena Pohlandt-McCormick concludes the Soweto book with the sentence

This book is about those and for those who helped me break silences.

Can close collaborative writing on FWH help to break silences, or to make silences, or both?

Dazzled by Diversity: forking, federation and simulation

This post is an answer-free zone.

Sometimes different ideas come to my attention around the same time, and I have a strong feeling that they are connected but I don’t really know how.

I think that I will just place them down here side by side and see what connections they spark for me or any readers who feel moved to comment.

by David Clow CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
by David Clow CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Ethnographic Dazzle

I have thought a lot (and blogged a bit) about diversity and human relations recently and a concept came into my mind that I first encountered when I read Kate Fox’s book “Watching the English”.  Ethnographic dazzle captures the superficiality of apparent differences: as Kate Fox says ““blindness to underlying similarities between human groups and cultures because one is dazzled by the more highly visible surface differences” (for more details on Kate’s book, you can look at this review ). I suspect that the personal examples of contradiction are more memorable for me because I still remember the shock of discovering just how “English” I was from reading Kate’s book.

Worrying away in my mind is the thought that our networks, spaces, MOOCs are much less diverse than we suspect (and I already think that mine are much less diverse than I would wish).  I am wondering what this means in terms of lost potential for making change, the shaping of ideas and services – hmmmm!!



Forking and Federating

A couple of weeks ago, I read an inspirational post by Mike Caulfield about federated wikis that might help us to take new directions in digital collaboration. The post is rich and deserves careful reading and re-reading (I am on my third pass and still puzzling over it). Mike gives an excellent explanation of the problems that arise on ‘consensus wikis’ and explains ‘federated wikis’ as follows

In a federated wiki, everyone has their own server which stores the records associated with them. But the meaning is made in your browser. Your browser pulls wiki records from all over the internet, and makes them look like they exist on a single server.

Mike is suggesting the intriguing idea that federated wikis might help us move from the ‘I’ (personal narrative) to the ‘you’ (group dialogue) to the ‘it’ (some sort of consensus on the idea/topic).  And what is more, he thinks that federated wikis could help with the “chain of attribution”.  That’s an exciting idea but I can’t help wondering if Rosalind Franklin would have been awarded a Nobel Prize if she had been working on such a wiki. I am not completely convinced, but all the more reason to explore the possibilities of working with federated wikis.

This year I ‘did’ the Rhizo14 MOOC and have been researching it with Jenny Mackness. So I was very interested to read of Dave Cormier’s plans for Rhizo15. He plans to support participants”forking’ of the Rhizo15 course. He says:

Don’t like how the course is being fun FORK THE COURSE. Want to try a different way of talking about week three FORK THE COURSE.

I am really fascinated to see how this works out. My first idea is that it seems more like ‘It’ to ‘you’ (and possibly to ‘I’ if noone likes your fork), so going in the opposite direction to Mike’s ideas. But then, I don’t really fully understand either of these ‘forks’ – hmmmmm!!

 Parable of the Polygons

My dear friend that I met on Rhizo 14 Mariana Funes alerted me to a rather wonderful simulation that lets you explore how squares and triangles can co-exist. My first response in Twitter was a bit suspicious “@mdvfunes @jennymackness love it… and let’s celebrate triares and squangles”. Having spent some time playing with the simulation, I think that is an excellent tool for exploring (some of ) the complexity of diversity. Obviously there are limitations in the ‘differences’ being represented by yellow triangles and blue squares but the interactivity does provoke consideration of alternative possibilities with some contradictions – all food for thought. Please do visit and play with this – I can guarantee that it will make you think!

Not conclusions

In this answer-free zone I can’t pose any conclusions. However, I would love to hear anything you want to say – do polygons, forking, federation or dazzle spark any thoughts you would like to share?

For me, connection can be enabled and even revealed by technology but I am thinking that we humans need to be working hard at explanations:)