PB Wiki – A Collaborative Effort

Simply put, a “wiki” is a website that is easy to use and edit without requiring an extensive knowledge of programming. Its purpose is to allow non-computer savvy people to post  and edit information on a webpage. In effect, wikis operate in the “open-source” environment that the Rosenzweig article deals with.

Secondly, unlike a private website which is a top-down experience (the “owner” posts, and the visitor reads) wikis are a collaborative effort in which all visitors can interact in a real-time environment. The most widespread wiki that all of us are most familiar with is “Wikipedia,” but wikis go beyond just that flagship product.

The easiest way to describe PB Wiki (Now called PBWorks) is that it is a hybrid between Wikipedia and Google Docs. PB Wiki is specifically geared towards businesses where teams of people need to collaboratively work on a joint-project. Placing all of the information on a single, easy to use webpage that can be edited by multiple people at once in real-time, ends the time consuming practice of sending endless emails and cc’s to keep everyone updated with project changes.

Aside from being strictly a business tool, wikis can also be used to foster creative collaboration across a wide spectrum of projects. For example, the Digital Research Tools site: https://digitalresearchtools.pbworks.com/w/page/17801672/FrontPage is a wiki that is publicly available. It serves as a database where people can post tools that help scholars conduct their research more efficiently. Unlike a “normal” website, on Digital Research Tools if you or I came across an effective tool and wanted to share it, we would be able to post our information on that wiki for all to see and interact with.

Some of the more common wikis I came across are not related to business or academia, but are run by hobbyists and enthusiasts. For example: http://corvette.wikia.com/wiki/Corvette_Wiki  is a wiki created by and for Corvette owners who can share tips and information on how to repair or upgrade their cars. If you own a Corvette and have discovered an easy way to fix a common problem with the car, you can post your instructions here to the benefit of all Corvette owners. This type of usage is exactly what wikis were built for – allowing for many different and otherwise unconnected people to come together and share common information.

Possible Project Topics

I’m currently pondering two ideas for a possible project:

1) As a digital project I’m considering using the records contained at the AU archives and my own documents I’ve gathered on research trips to the Kennedy Library in Boston to create an online database/display related to President Kennedy’s now famous commencement address that he gave at AU in June 1962. It could be a website that uses key primary documents to show the evolution of Kennedy’s thinking, tracing how this speech came together. This June marks the 50th anniversary of the address, so this would be a timely project that might garner some wider interest.

2) If I decide to do a print project instead I’d like to do a comparative historical study of the introduction of new communications technologies throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, and how people reacted to and talked about them. For example, comparing the telegraph, telephone, and internet in their early stages, did people express similar concerns about these nascent technologies in their respective ages? How does what people thought these technologies would do for society reconcile with how they actually developed and were used.