Only the Wiki Survive

As Jerry Butler once wrote, Only the Strong Survive, but what about the wiki? As technology continues to be developed, there seems to be no reason not to create our own “wiki-pads,” “wiki-pods,” and maybe even “wiki-phones.”

Historians could attempt to learn html and create their own websites, but why bother when there are so many online tools that provide the space and templates that can guide us through the process? Of course, beyond just sharing our own individual work, we are encouraged to engage in more collaborative research, like this article suggests. Again, the space for collaborative research has also been laid out for us.

PBworks allows for businesses, educators, and individuals to set up their own “wiki’s,” or collaborative spaces where groups can share and edit information. For those who wish to create online workspaces without the necessity of learning code, applications like these make it easy for anyone to “click and insert” whatever information they desire.

We should ask, however, how is this website, PBworks, any different from other do-it-yourself sites? Google Sites allows for the same type of collaborative projects and has its own templates that individuals and groups can use. There are probably a hundred different websites that allow anyone to create their own wiki’s, many of which will host them for free. The question is, what do these sites suggest for scholars in the humanities? Basically, there’s no reason not to have your own website, whether for presenting your own research or creating collaborative projects for others to participate in your research.

In terms of education, PBworks is specifically designed with templates for the syllabus, course readings, class assignments, etc. Schools and classrooms can create their own online workspaces, like this one for an AP American History Course, where students can engage online with various content. While I personally see this as helpful in the classroom, it seems less significant when it comes to scholarly research.

This is not to suggest that certain wiki’s have not been created to aid in historical research. A Digital Research Tool Wiki (DiRT) was created where contributing individuals present hundreds of tools and resources to help scholars with their research. In a way, it’s like a phone book of digital tools.  Do you need help with organizing research tools? Check out these possible resources. What about creating interactive multimedia works on your own to enrich the presentation of your research? Try one of these. Regardless of how much help you may need, this site guides you to many resources available online. The problem is, how do you know this site exists without being guided there. You can get there through Google, but you have to know to search “digital research tools.” There isn’t really a database of PBworks sites, so unless you are part of the group you may never know it exists. Many PBworks sites are set up for exclusive groups (i.e. schools, classes, etc), so you would have to be invited to even access the material. This is naturally a benefit for those workgroups that want to keep their research confidential until published, but able to access it across the globe.

To get to know PBworks, I went ahead and created my own workspace. I used their platform to create my Interactive CV. Basically I just uploaded my CV with links to proposals of each of the articles I’ve worked or are currently working on. If anyone requested to contribute, they could post comments and suggestions to my proposals. Obviously, I don’t expect anyone to request this sort of engagement, especially since no one would even know this site existed without my specifically inviting them. Nevertheless, while working on setting this up, I realized how helpful digital tools like this one are along with its affiliated tools (i.e. uploading slideshows, etc) for various workgroups. If I was collaborating on a book or paper with multiple authors, we could use PBworks to upload our drafts, scanned copies of primary sources, links to other secondary sources, and then comment on each author’s work without needing to worry about any of the group’s research being compromised before publication.

What other types of wiki’s would you set up in a group setting and how do you think this site can help collaborative historical work? Is there a valid use for this site when compared to all the other options out there today?

Well, if you’d like, setting up your own wiki is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

1. Choose a Plan that fits your needs.

2. Choose your address:

3. Accept the terms of the site and… “Take Me to My Workspace.”

Or should we call it Wikispace?

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