In the Web 2.0 class last week, I asked everyone to find something on Wikipedia that they knew a lot about and to edit something on the page. I decided to do this because so many of the folks in the class had been blogging about how they couldn't imagine editing a wiki and didn't really like the idea of wikis because someone might come along and mess up what's written.
Luckily, SZ's excellent presentation on Tuesday about her own wiki helped to dispel some aversion toward wikis. But, still, I wanted writing to happen. So we all edited on Thursday.
As I was illustrating to the class what I wanted them to do, I had to think quick to try to find an entry I thought I would be able to edit. What popped into my head? Peter Elbow. So I went to his page, which is in fact surprisingly short. I edited it by adding a word to one sentence and then adding an entire sentence that linked to another Wikipedia page. That was my contribution.
The most popular pages for the folks in the class were their high school pages. Some of them had to start from scratch, while others were able to add just a sentence or two to already existing pages.
A couple of students after class blogged about still not wanting to contribute to wikis.
But what struck me about the activity is how much, really, it IS writing. There's the myth of the author, of course. But didn't the author die in the 60s? Why is that specter continuously haunting acts of writing? What is writing if it's isn't adding a little bit to what's already accumulated? Even when we're writing a whole entry (or paper or book or whatever) ourselves, we have to accumulate. Aggregate. Select. Then create some sentences. Go back and add some words. Write some new sentences.
The wiki. It *is* writing. That's what I say.