The Long of IT

Table of Contents

A longish definition of wikis and discussion of information technology

What are wikis?

Various definitions spring to fingertips. Sarah Lai Sterland, writing for the Wired Blog Network, suggests: "Wikis are by their nature collaborative projects that enable a large group of people to contribute their efforts, to peer-review, finesse and openly dispute the information that's presented" (Sterland, Democrats Launch McCainpedia..., 2008.05.19). Although her definition may suit a project as comprehensive as Wikipedia, it may at once over-idealize the nature of human artifacts, namely a growing number of wikis, and over-simplify their development. Wikipedia, which manifests itself as Sterland suggests, that is, at the hands of many people, offers a less biased definition than you might expect to find in an op-ed article.

Two concepts in particular where the basic Wikipedia definition of wikis (Wikipedia: "wiki", ¶1, 2008.05.22) seems to differ from Sterland's generalization about the nature of wikis are, for lack of better terms at the moment, editability and informativeness. Closer reading of the extended Wikipedia article will undoubtedly reveal other key concepts and clarifications. First to consider is editability, which both basic definitions cited here tend to conflate with accessibility. Accessibility entails a range of degrees, including editability. A couple of which that don't figure here (yet) are accessibility of online content to physically or visually impaired people.

Although Sterland recounts "technologists" criticism towards McCainpedia for its inaccessibility of content to edits by large numbers of people other than the Democratic National Committee (Sterland, 2008, ¶5 [a one-liner with no reference or substantiation]), on-going editorial access to wiki content need be little greater than that for ordinary web pages. In fact, wiki pages are web pages, often quick-and-dirty, developed by anyone who has editorial access, and readable only by audiences with browsing access. As the Wikipedia definition suggests, businesses and other working groups may be just as likely to restrict access as other wiki developers are to offer complete access, probably more so.

A second yet interrelated point of departure in definitions regards Sterland's conception of information as disputable. However, it is seldom (never?) information itself which people dispute, whether on wikis, in background discussions, or elsewhere. Perhaps in recognition of conceptual overloads, connotations, and innuendos we often attribute to the word information, authors of the basic wikipedia definition mention "data" instead of information (Wikipedia: "wiki", ¶1, 2008.05.22). What is disputable is the accuracy or veracity of information channeled, if you will, through wikis or other media. Other aspects of both the collection of data and its packaging as information which also are debatable are the purposes and effectiveness of both. - ltdproject ltdproject May 21, 2008

Created: May 21, 2008 5:57 pm
Last revised by ltdproject on Feb 1, 2010 11:39 pm