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This page is part of the Proceedings of Wikimania 2006 (Index of presentations)

Perpetual Negotiation Machine: Wikipedia's Discursive Affordances for College Writing Instruction

Author Daniel Caeton (California State University, Fresno)
License GNU Free Documentation License (details)
About the author
Presenters/Daniel Caeton/Biography
This paper extends research which served as the foundation for my forthcoming article, 'Agency and Accountability: The Paradoxes of Wiki Discourse', to be published in The Wild, Wild Wiki: Unsettling the Frontiers of Cyperspace. In terms of methodology, my research proceeds from a vantage bifurcated between symbolic interactionism and critical discourse analysis. Essentially, I offer an exegesis of a series of encounters that Emina, a Bosnian Muslim student of mine, had with Wikipedia while in my Introductory Composition course at California State University, Fresno. Specifically, she entered into a dialogue, albeit one removed from Wikipedia and instead expressed in her essays, with Vedran, Igor, and Nikola, three Wikipedians that made substantial contributions during December of 2004 to the discussion and article pages for Wikipedia’s 'Bosniak' entry. Emina’s effort to negotiate Wikipedia's radical possibilities for social constructions of knowledge, destabilization of conventional narratives, and decentering of fixed identities signals a significant shift in the way that students can be encouraged to interrogate texts. Over the course of the semester Emina found herself alternately intrigued and frustrated with the cultural representations of Bosnian Muslims by Wikipedians. A tremendous portion of her distrust emanated from her inability to discern the standpoints of these three contributors, which in turn made it difficult for her to describe the ideological motives underwriting their representations of the Bosnian genocide. As such, this paper seeks to engage an exigent question: what are the social and pedagogical implications of a writing space where the benefit of open access is offset by an anonymity which ineluctably impedes authorial accountability? Based on Emina's experiences and my own observations, I contend that the problematic of authorial erasure is mitigated in Wikipedia by its ingenuous deferment of textual completeness.
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