Collaborative Writing: Wikis and the Co-Construction of Meaning

Collaborative Writing: Wikis and the Co-Construction of Meaning

Katina Zammit
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8310-5.ch019
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As people, of all ages, take advantage of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0 to be active participants in the process of knowledge building, they become publishers and producers of knowledge not simply consumers of information. In this chapter I will draw upon Bruns and Humphrey's (2007) concept of produsage and the four capacities of produsers as a frame through which to consider the use of wikis for collaborative writing and the social construction of meaning in an online environment. In presenting an overview of the literature on wikis in educational, work and interest-group (affinity spaces) contexts, the issues and gaps, connections will be made between these two concepts and other complementary ideas. While the chapter focuses, primarily, on wiki usage in educational contexts commentary is also included on wikis in workplace environments and for interest-groups (affinity spaces).
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In the information age of the 21st century, knowledge is a powerful tool that is ever changing. We can no longer know everything or even hope to be able to achieve an outcome without the support of others: their intellectual input, their critique of our ideas, their suggested directions, and their contribution to an end product. We are no longer silos of knowledge transmitting this knowledge to others but are part of knowledge building communities, contributing together for the advancement of society. As such the skills and capacities to work in a knowledge building community are essential for students to learn throughout their education, from the early years of school through to university.

The online environments that offer opportunities for people to connect with each other and create spaces for the exchange and development of knowledge are part of what is collectively known as Web 2.0. Examples of Web 2.0 platforms are blogs, forums, Google docs and wikis. Web 2.0 encourages individual users to coordinate with others by creating spaces for user collaboration and the means for them to explore, combine, annotate, edit, splice and mix a range of communication modes, such as images, sound, video and writing re-expressing ideas and creating new content (Cole, 2009; Crook et al., 2008; Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009; Tay & Allen, 2011). It is the active participation in communities of practice (Crook et al., 2008; Wenger, 1999) that affords the potential for greater conceptual understanding because what is created collaboratively is greater than what could be produced independently (Kalanztis & Cope, 2012; Thornton, 2013). Involvement in these communities, builds an individual’s repertoire of practices.

As people, of all ages, take advantage of the opportunities offered by Web 2.0 to be active participants in the process of knowledge building, they become publishers and producers of knowledge not simply consumers of information (Cole, 2009; Forte & Bruckman, 2007; Greenhow et al., 2009), blurring the boundaries between the two, and becoming “produsers”(users/producers) (Bruns & Humphrey, 2007). Produsage, as Bruns and Humphrey (2007) point out, involves the “collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement” (p. 2). It has four fundamental characteristics that are not characteristic of traditional linear modes of production and work where individual ownership of knowledge is valued. The four characteristics of produsage are:

  • 1.

    It is community based.

  • 2.

    Participants occupy fluid roles participating as is appropriate to their personal skills, interests, and knowledges.

  • 3.

    The “artifacts” are unfinished.

  • 4.

    What is produced is common property. (Bruns & Humphreys, 2007, p. 2)

Produsage occurs within a ‘participatory culture’ (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, & Weigel, 2006) enabled by Web 2.0 technology. Involvement in a participatory culture occurs when people have a social connection with others, share ideas and believe their contributions matter. Within their varied communities, people contribute to knowledge building and knowledge sharing through participatory, collaborative, and distributed practices (Greenhow et al., 2009; Jenkins et al., 2006; Thornton, 2013). Participatory cultures can be identified as:

Key Terms in this Chapter

Produsage: The practice of being both a user and producer of online (Internet) content.

21st Century Literacies: The skills and understandings required for an individual to effectively participate and work in the 21st century, including information literacy, digital literacy, critical literacy, the ability to collaborate and solve problems.

Capacities: The ability to undertake an action, complete an activity or understand something.

Knowledge Building: The practice of building the knowledge base of a person, institution or organization in order to support the core work of the individual, institution or organization.

Multiliteracies: The literacies and pedagogies associated with the understanding and use of a range of semiotic modes, including the written, spoken, audio, visual, gestural and combinations of these modes.

Affordances: The resources specific to a mode or form of technology that are used in the creation of a text and for meaning making.

Collaboration: The practice of individuals working together on a task, problem or project working towards the completion of the desired outcomes, solution or goals.

Knowledge Management: The practice of managing the information developed by employees in a workforce so that it can be easily stored, retrieved and archived for others within the company to use.

Communities of Practice: A group of people interested in the same field, interest or process who learn from each other, supporting each other’s learning and together develop knowledge, understandings and skills.

Produsers: People who both use or consume information from an online environment (the Internet) and also produce or create information for others to use.

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