Ready or Not - Wikis #2a

Brian Lamb provides an excellent overview and discussion of the principles of wikis in this article, Wide Open Spaces: Wikis, Ready or Not. As the title indicates, the highlight of this discussion is about the openness of wikis. That characteristic is actually seen on a continuum with the true open editing of WikiWikiWeb and Wikipedia at one end and the more restricted password-only wikis in many businesses and classrooms (see Studying Societies at JHK as an example). As Lamb points out, “The structure of wikis is shaped from within – not imposed from above” (p. 40). This concept helps keep the perspective of its use in education, i.e., for some situations (especially as a new wiki user), the community might be limited. Therefore, the openness trait has some individual control.

He assaults the fear of wikis’ openness with a description of the ethical “soft security” systems of community oversight and the technological tools of “hard security” utilities. Unfortunately, wikis are not totally immune to sabotage, despite the security. Just as when you secure your computer with anti-virus software, spam-filtering and firewall utilities, and spyware software, it doesn’t prevent the possibility of hacker attack and infiltration – but it does minimize that risk. This reality is critical, especially in educating students (as well as teachers, administrators, and even school board members) about the pros and cons of using wikis. The real question is do you stop using (or don’t start using) the technology because it has some vulnerability? Do the benefits outweigh the detractions? I for one cannot argue that point.

Additionally, a common objection to wikis is the lack of style and beauty! Though they do have a look of commonality and serve more function, than design, I would guess that there is a bit more diversity in wikis’ form since the article’s authorship. Based on available templates and “skins,” wikis can take on a personal look to meet that aesthetic quality. Even with the focus on reading and writing, visual literacy can be addressed with the inclusion of photographs, graphics, diagrams and colored fonts. Thus, an introduction of wikis to a new audience would benefit from a stylish and good- looking wiki model, as “any pleasure derivable from the appearance or functioning of the tool increases positive affect, broadening the creativity and increasing the tolerance for minor difficulties and blockages” (Norman, 2002, p. 42).

Another interesting facet of this article is the change from individual to collective writing and how that impacts ownership, plagiarism, and copyright. Interestingly, last semester I found myself citing from blogs and wikis frequently and realized there was no specific protocol in APA Manual! Though the concerns of intellectual property rights are probably far more relevant to those in universities, the awareness and discussion is important – if for no other reason than to explore the alternatives and to challenge blinded mindsets. The nature of wiki content as “ego-less, time-less, and never finished” (Lamb, 2004, p. 38) muddies the waters of ethics in the information age.

There’s more in this article on pedagogical challenges which I will combine with another article on pedagogies later this week…due to this long posting!

Lamb, B. (2004). Wide open spaces: Wikis, ready or not. EDUCAUSE Review (39, 5) pp. 36 – 48. Retrieved March 16, 2006 from

Norman, D. A. (2002). Emotion and design: Attractive things work better. Interactions Magazine, ix (4), 36-42. Retrieved March 19, 2006 from


At 8:41 PM, Blogger M. Yates said...

Marie, I am going to comment more on your post later but I just found an article on Wiki's I thought you might be able to use called Wikis test students' research skills at:

At 8:51 PM, Blogger Marie C said...

Thanks, Marie! I just tapped into their resources on wikis today! Now I can add yours to my growing list of references - thank goodness for tags!
Marie C.


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