Monday, March 21, 2011

Wikis Create Online Communities

The Internet has progressed and has been adapted to conform to the needs of the user. Web 2.0 and user generated content is where the Internet is currently operating. There are still domains that are dominated by its creator and doesn’t allow for outside content. However wikis allow for collaboration on the web. A wiki is a website that allows for user generated content. They also allow for communal and collaborative writing on the web, where a user can contribute whatever information they want. A wiki also lets you incorporate hypertext linking various websites to the central wiki site, which allows for the expansion of a central idea. Although some wikis like Wikipedia are open forums on the web, others are private. The private wikis are most commonly provided by corporations and can only be edited and updated by that specific enterprise. Various wiki sites allow for an increase in user generated content and connectivity between users on the Internet. In today’s western culture wikis have become an essential part of everyday life on the Internet. Wikis have become credible online encyclopedias that have current and credible information, and create a larger online information-sharing centre.
Wikipedia the worlds leading wiki site, the tag line The Free Encyclopedia. “In this century American encyclopedia have cut out scholarly subjects in favour of articles of popular interest in order to maintain the largest possible readership” (Bolter, 90). The Wikipedia site has millions of topics to pick from, currently there is 3 588 000 wiki sites within the main site of Wikipedia. There are also more than 14 million contributors with named accounts who collaborate on Wikipedia, the Internets largest wiki. One of the sites within Wikipedia for example, is the topic of writing. From this wiki site someone would be able to discover the definition, history, and other various information regarding the topic. There are also links on the page that will take a person from writing to other related topics. There are twenty-four references for the writing page alone, this does not count how many people actually contribute to the site however.
The Internet is littered with various wikis, from personal wiki space to a search engine that searches specific wikis from Wikipedia to personal and encyclopedia wikis. Creating your own wiki can allow you to develop a space that is of personal interest to the creator. From there you can collaborate with other wikis, and not just wikis there is also the opportunity to link to other information on the Internet that is pertinent to what you are discussing.
User generated interconnectivity on the Internet through wikis is really an art form of its own. “The computer could textualize all the arts: that is, it could incorporate sound and images into hypertext as easily as words” (Bolter, 184). Which, is what wiki’s have the ability to do, they have the ability to tie various medias together. Hypertext and links link text, visuals, and sounds together to elaborate a specific point, argument, or topic together.
The way in which a wiki works is that all wikis have an edit button that allows the user to edit the page on the wiki site. Once the user clicks edit the page becomes like a word document, this is where the user can edit the text. Once finished editing the text the user clicks save and the document turns back into a web page. From here the user can also edit to attach links within the wiki page. The links connect different sites and wiki sites together. Wiki in plain English describes how a wiki works by editing, saving, and having several people do the editing and saving to create a completed document. Because of e-mail and other social medias that have been relied on to complete a task, wikis have been proven to be a better solution.
It seems as though the Internet is becoming one mass space for information. The ‘information highway’ as it has been referred to. However, it is no longer just straight paths through the Internet to straightforward information. There are now links to pages, and pages linked to photos and videos, and back to text. There is no longer straightforward paths with no links to other pages. The information runs through different pathways that allow the read/user to navigate through a web of information. The links have the ability to lead the reader to sites that are not pertinent to their search.
A book titles Hot Text by Jonathan Price and Lisa Price is a book on writing for the online reader. They decipher the reader and the writer for the online world. What they say in chapter 7 of their book entitled Cook Up Hot Links tells the writer to create links within their writing, but only links that will emphasize a specific point that they are trying to elaborate. It is difficult to decipher the useful links form the ones that will in no way enhance the understanding of the topic that is being presented. The links do increase the connectivity through the Internet from site to site, but if the link does not enhance the point that it is not worth it to put a link it. This is where it is hard to navigate through some wikis. Wikipedia for example will highlight words as links to take the reader from one site within the Wikipedia domain to another. The only disadvantage of this is that it may be a single word and not the entire idea that is being linked to another site.
One of the largest issues with wikis is making sure that the user-generated content is in fact the most correct and the most current. Wikipedia will argue however that their content is closely monitored and that incorrect content is caught quickly and taken down. In one instance the page for Nickleback on the Wikipedia site has been blocked from user generated content and can now only be updated privately by Wikipedia staff.
What certain wiki’s will boost is that the connectivity between wikis is outstanding. The Nickleback page links to the band members through hypertext and then can connect you to their hometowns and other information that is presented from that page. It is still very likely that a user can get lost in the amount of information that is being thrown at them.
It is because of wikis that it seems there is a decrease in the amount of people who use books from the library. The more information that is available from the Internet and through wikis is much faster to find and navigate. The wiki is now an essential part of everyday Internet use because it is a mecca of information. This is evident in Wikipedia being the 8th most popular and used site on the top 500 sites list. This could be because of its vast amount of information, and connectivity between the wikis. It could also be because users have the ability to alter the information if they find out something new or important. Much like a blog people want to leave their mark and through a wiki like Wikipedia they have the opportunity to have their work seen and noted through the reference list.
            Wikis are an asset on the information highway of the Internet. It allows people to connect and contribute in a different form that e-mail and plain text. The linkage in the wiki also allows for a reader to become more involved and dig deeper into a topic that he/she is looking for. Wikis have become credible online encyclopedias, which are arguably more credible than a printed version of an encyclopedia because it is constantly updated. Wikis are an important and integral part of the Internet that create a connectivity between users and an increase in information sharing online.

Works cited.

Alexa: The Web Information Company. Web. 17 March 2011

Bolter, Jay David. Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print.
New York: Routledge, 2001. Print.

Leelefever. Wiki in Plain English. Youtube. Web Video. 29 March 2007.

Nickleback. Web. 16 March 2011

Your Dictionary. Nd. Web. 18 March 2011.

Wiki Search Engine. Nd. Web. 16 March. 2011

Wikipedia. Web. 18 March 2011.

WikiSpace: Personal Wiki Space. Nd. Web. 18 March 2011

Writing. Web. 17 March 2011.

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