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Building Collaborative Capacities in Learners: The M/Cyclopedia Project, Revisited (WikiSym 2007)

WikiSym 2007

Building Collaborative Capacities in Learners:
The M/Cyclopedia Project, Revisited

Axel Bruns and Sal Humphreys

  • 22 October 2007 - WikiSym 2007 conference, Montréal, Canada

This paper by Axel Bruns and Sal Humphreys for the International Symposium on Wikis in Montréal, 21-23 Oct. 2007, traces the evolution of a project using a wiki-based learning environment in a tertiary education setting. The project has the pedagogical goal of building learners' capacities to work effectively in the networked, collaborative, creative environments of the knowledge economy. The paper explores the four key characteristics of a 'produsage' environment and identifies four strategic capacities that need to be developed in learners to be effective 'produsers' (user-producers). A case study is presented of our experiences with the subject New Media Technologies, run at Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. This progress report updates our observations made at the 2005 WikiSym conference.

I, for One, Welcome Our New Cylon Overlords

Boston (with apologies to Kent Brockman).
So, over the last few days I've found myself inadvertently in the centre of some degree of controversy in the online Battlestar Galactica fan community. This was sparked by my report from the BSG panel at MiT5 last weekend. People more closely aligned with that fan community have posted some very insightful thoughts here on my blog, but in the meantime the discussion has moved over to where I think it properly belongs - the Battlestar Wiki blog. Additionally, audio and video from the original presentations has also been posted. I wish the community well in deliberating the implications of the papers presented at MiT5, and in its outreach endeavours to female fans of BSG. As a BSG fan myself (going right back to the movies several eternities ago, much as it pains me to admit this) I'm also likely to drop in to the wiki every once in a while to see how it's developing - it would be nice to see a few more spoiler warnings for those of us in televisionally challenged regions who haven't yet succumbed to bittorrenting the whole lot, though! (In fact, the BSG wiki reminds me quite a bit of the Perry Rhodan wiki I mentioned here a while ago - here's hoping that the BSG series in its new incarnation will be blessed with a similarly lengthy run...)

Narratives and Identities in a Produsage-Based Environment?

After my guest lecture at the University of Lincoln the other day, one of the students, David Lawson, sent me an email with a couple of very thoughtful questions. I thought I might as well answer them publicly - further comments are, as always, invited...

After thinking about your lecture and how it may relate to the work that I'm doing, I saw the connection. The new publishing mode that you propose, 'produsage', throws up the question of Does this model better fit today's society, with relation to people's attraction to media that has no set narrative trajectory? If users are finding, contributing to and distributing the news then where is the narrative structure of this medium?

Encouraging Stories from Teaching Wikis

As I've mentioned here before, over the last couple of years I've been one of the directors of a large teaching and learning grant project at QUT, aimed at introducing blogs, wikis, and other more advanced online tools into the teaching environment. Our fundamental assumption in this project is that in a social software, Web 2.0 world, students crucially need to build the critical, creative, collaborative, and communicative capacities (or C4C, for short) to operate effectively, whether in their working or private lives, or in their wider role as citizens. Advanced social software tools in learning environments can help build such capacities, or (where they exist already, as is increasingly the case) further enhance them by providing a more systematic approach to their development.

Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006

On the day before AoIR2006, I presented at the Online Learning and Teaching conference at QUT. I'm happy to report that the two conference papers for OLT2006 that I was involved in have now been published on the conference Website - here are the references:

Rachel Cobcroft, Stephen Towers, Judith Smith, and Axel Bruns. "Mobile Learning in Review: Opportunities and Challenges for Learners, Teachers, and Institutions." In Proceedings of the Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006, Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.

Social Software in Higher Education

I was lucky enough to be a team member in two education research projects proposed to the Carrick Institute in the last application round. One, with my friend and colleague Donna Lee Brien and a host of other colleagues, will work on developing a network of creative writing postgraduates, and I'll post more about it here soon as the project develops. The other, led by Robert Fitzgerald from the University of Canberra, has now been officially announced - here is our press release:

Social Software in Higher Education

Canberra - 24 August 2006

Quick Summary: CATaC 2006 Day Two

We're now in the preliminary summary session for the second day at CATaC 2006. By the way, in the meantime the CATaC wiki has also been revived, with some additional materials on the presentations also posted up there. In terms of the session I chaired, I found the combination of theory and practice, and of development and definition of collaborative, productive online environments particularly interesting - the direct practical engagement of researchers in the tools and communities they study appears to have a number of benefits. Other session chairs right now seem to present more of a summary of their sessions - but for example, Laurel Dyson points once again to the importance of alternatives to traditional forms of copyright, as well as to the associated traditional view of content producers as individuals: perhaps there is a need for computer technology which also provides for multiple participants, similar to the way computer games already do. Anne Hewling notes the shift in e-learning from a technological to a cultural focus, and a recognition of learning environments as culturally complex and in need of further study.

Defining and Developing Produsage and Its Tools


The second morning at CATaC 2006 begins with a session I'm chairing, and my own paper is also in this session - so I'll try to blog the other three papers, and to post the slides and text for mine. Chris Newlon and Anthony Faiola are the first presenters, on mega-collaboration. They begin with a focus on Hurricane Katrina, which they describe as exhibiting a pattern of success and failure. The response to the hurricane was a spontaneous gathering and coordination of information resources by private-sector ICT organisations and individuals, but the government failed to effectively make use of this wealth of information. Of course, planning is usually for the expected, but not for the worst imaginable extreme - how, then, to plan for the unexpected? Chaos was the only response in the Katrina case, especially also because of cultural barriers between the different agencies and entities involved in the flood response. At the same time, the use of private ICT resources can be described as a success - socially connected information networks were in clear evidence here, including privately run missing persons databases, as well as blogs, lists, bulletin boards, etc. This builds on a small world principle where most individuals are connected, but where such connection depends on contextual information which points towards the most useful contacts to utilise.

Updated Wikinews Statistics

I presented a paper reviewing the first year of Wikinews at the Association of Internet Researchers conference in Chicago in 2005, and this paper has also been accepted for publication in Scan Journal in June 2006. Today I've finally posted the audio from that presentation.

I also spent part of today revising the paper with more recent figures on the development of Wikinews for publication in Scan - in the conference paper I had argued that some of the systemic problems within Wikinews had stunted its growth through the furst year, and I'm sorry to day that (but for a brief spike in the aftermath of the London bombings and hurricanes Katrina and Rita) this trend appears to have continued to date.

Blogs and Wikis in Teaching at QUT - Update

A little while ago Trebor Scholz suggested that I should respond to a post of his on the Institute for Distributed Creativity mailing-list, about using wikis and blogs in teaching. I finally got around to this yesterday, and thought I might post it up here as well. This also refers back to the interview Trebor did with me last year, and to the Large Teaching & Learning Grant project which I co-direct at QUT (see Blogs and Wikis in Teaching at QUT for some more information). Any comments welcome!


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