Critique and Conclusion

Wikis in Composition and Communication Classrooms (Summary Part Two of Three)

As the second section's title suggests, Wikis in Composition and Communication Classrooms analyzes how wikis can be used by both instructors and students to enhance their learning in these disciplines. Several chapters in this section begin to discuss what kinds of writing can take place in wikis. Will Lakeman's "Content and Commentary: Parallel Structures of Organization and Interaction on Wikis" argues that the unique structure of wikis can "popularize new methods of of collaborative writing" and that users of wikis can develop a sophisticated sense of electronic letiracy (pp. 159). This collaboaration is demonstrated by communication graduate students David Elfving and Ericka Menchen-Trevino ("One Wiki, Two Classrooms"). They discuss the creation of two wikis that were used to help organize and decipher assigned reading for graduate seminars. They conclude that the success of a wiki is subjective and contingent on a variety of social factors. They stress that "vibrant collaboration" can emerge from wiki writing, but that "collaboration can't be forced" (pp. 144).

Stephanie Vie and Jennifer deWinter ground their chapter, "Disrupting Intellectual Property: Collaboration and Resistance in Wikis," in discussions of collaborative authoring, including those of Kenneth Bruffee, Kathyrn T. Flannery, and Rebecca Moore Howard. Along these lines, they note "the ways in which traditional authorship is upset by wikis" (pp. 112). They suggest that wikis allow students to write for "real" audiences: "As artificial documents created for an artificial situation, they [student documents] live, breathe, and die within the scope of a semester. In contrast, documents created and housed online live on and are capable of reaching a far greater audience" (pp. 119). They proceed to convincingly compare wiki writing to Kenneth Burke's metaphor of unending conversation (pp. 120). This chapter vigorously promotes wikis as an area for "real" writing to take place. D.A. Caeton's chapter, "Agency and Accountability: The Paradoxes of Wiki Discourse" continues this line of thought. Caeton finds the incompleteness of wikis—that is, the ability of wikis to be continually edited—one of its strengths. Caeton asserts that student authors writing in a wiki (Caeton uses the example of Wikipedia) will take a vested interest in the content of wikis, because "the onus of accepting and creating knowledge rested on them; they could not simply defer to experts" (pp. 135). The last selection in this section, Michael C. Morgan's "Above and Below the Double Line: Refactoring and that Old-Time Revision," emphasizes (through coding practice and composition theory) the importance of revising student writing and how wikis can help facilitate such revision.