Why Wikity

Bit Rot Saudade

Writing by Mike Goudzwaard | Image by Bit Rot Saudade (Flickr) CC BY 2.0

This spring I’m working with Michael Evans on his Film 7: Mass Media and Democracy course. The “sevens” (i.e. Film 7) are the last in a series of required writing courses at Dartmouth. Each “seven” lives within a specific department and explores writing from a particularly disciplinary lens. As part of the writing in Film 7 students will be producing F7, an online journal exploring mass media and democracy. Students will also enage with learning experiences from printing with moveable type in the Book Arts Workshop, printing posters with activist Amos Paul Kennedy Jr (funded through the Dartmouth Experiential Learning Initiative), and of course drafting, editing, and revising each others’ work on Wikity.

What is Wikity you ask? So you’ve probably heard of the most famous wiki, Wikipedia, the massive collection of user created articles. The problem with Wikipedia for a writing course is that there are masked strangers (editors) constantly changing your work. We don’t need to play Wikipedia politics while trying to develop an idea for a writing course. Wikity is a small private instance available only to students in the class and their collaborating educators (faculty, instructional designers, and library educators). Wikity is a composition space with revision history and the ability to pass off writing to other users while retaining the original version.

For you techies (others look away for a moment), here are a few specs. Wikity was developed by Michael Caulfield at Washington State University, Vancouver (see wikity.cc) and is essentially a WordPress multi-site running a custom theme and a suite of plugins. Each author has their own site (subdomain name.site.come or subfolder site.com/name). Okay, enough of the techie stuff.

Students will be doing a lot of writing of various forms. They will be drafting articles, passing those off (called forking in wiki-speak) to their peers for edits and revision, and then taking them back. They will also be doing all sorts of metacognitive exercises such as preflection – What and how do you think you will learn? – and reflection  – What and how did you learn? They will also bringing in examples from the web to contribute to the course wikity.

Not only is Film 7 a chance to explore using Wikity for class writing, it is also a chance to invite our students to consider the benefits and risks of any technology. Through this course students will be asked to consider:

How are you backing up your work? No, I didn’t ask how someone else backs up your work, how do you back up your work. Yes, it’s your job as a digital citizen.

Who has access to your work and when? Here we hit a snag. Wikity carries the CC-NC-BY license which is not appropriate for a course. This is private work and all rights belong to the author. This was easily fixed with a footer edit. Wikity also lives behind a password and students decided if posts are draft or published.

Should you work be preserved beyond this course? If so, how? Rauner Special Collections Library Digital Archivist, Caitlin Birch will be visiting Film 7 in week nine to explore this topic.

I’ll let you know how this all goes. Down with bit rot!

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