I'm very interested in learning how different types of networks or communities work in a networked way - this whole notion of working wikily. The NTEN project is an excellent learning laboratory for reflection and learning about this topic.
Dave Cormier published a paper recently entitled "Community as Curriculum" and that phrase has stuck with me as one way to think about workshop curriculum projects that are being developed in a networked way like the NTEN project. I was delighted last week to see this skype message pop up from Dave Cormier.
hey Beth... wondering if i might poke my nose into this knowledge building experiment. currently very curious about the interplay of blog (as socially contructed time based creatures) and wikis (which... uh... are not) and how knowledge transfers from one to another in 'first wave' (technologically savvy) proto-communities.
I responded with don't just poke - be a critical friend! (Dave points to a couple of resources defining critical friends - here, here and here). "A critical friend is someone who is independent of the project who asks provocative questions, offers an alternative view, and helps facilitate fresh insights or alternative sources of information or expertise."
Dave has posted his first observation here. He brings the lens of experience of a community building process for a new media curriculum. He has a context for what may work and what may not. After reviewing the wiki documents and process so far, he has posed two questions so far ...
- How are you contributing to people’s feelings of ‘responsibility’ to the knowledge creation process?
Dave is asking an question about how to encourage community participation and ownership. How do you get people to contribute their knowledge - whether it be to a wiki page, leaving a comment on a blog post, or tagging a resource?
I wonder if there are levels of responsibility - similar to the activism ladders of engagement.
(1) Bystander: Reads only
(2) Gives Feedback: May add a comment to a blog post or add a link to a wiki page
(3) Joins the community: Signs up for a swarm list
(4) Joins the expertise map/advisory group: Fills out a profile and identifies a module
(5) Participants in the collaborative writing
This works best when people feel a clean responsibility to the work at hand. There is a good start there with the personal profile ‘what module would you most like to contribute to’ section. I think the transition between volunteerism there and action by the leadership team is crucial.
Most of the participants in this project work in nonprofits that are limited in resources and time - so hoping to make participation not be labor intensive, find small - concrete chunks, and support any self-defined sub-cultures on the community.
How do you walk the line between being a supportive facilitator and encouraging people to participate, without making it too overwhelming or difficult or have people feel like are not welcomed to contribute? When do you as the wiki facilitator get out of the way? Does the design that allows for multiple points of access and small chunks of contributions inhibit or encourage ownership and responsibility?
- What are your thoughts about the lifespan of your knowledge creation?
Dave points out that the "community as curriculum" concept suggests that "curriculum knowledge must always be emerging. It is constantly in flux and only by aggregating and assessing the community in real time, with constant new connections and renewed re-evaluation can the curriculum stay ‘current." As Dave suggests, I think there will be some "products" for face-to-face training workshops - which may be longer lasting, but there will be other sections that will be updated. The question of how or if this happens beyond a grant period is up to NTEN.
I like how Dave has described this process as curation! However, we may be thinking of about it slightly different - a facilitative curator versus community driven curation. And as Dave mentions, this happens through tagging. We do have a history and context of the NpTech tagging community -- so how to encourage that?
Some Learnings on Practice
I asked Amy Sample Ward if she would share some thoughts based on her experience with launching and working on connectipedia in the process section of the wiki. Amy offered a practical tip: "I have found that emailing those involved with a recent update on activity or content with links directly to the action and where they should also participate help elevate the tasks on people's to-do lists." I put her advice to use a few times already, and it is an important lesson. With wikispaces, it is important to use the overall site monitoring features so you know when people make contributions.
What are your thoughts on encouraging community responsibility and ownership in working wikily?