eLatin eGreek eLearn

More wired than a Roman Internet café

Veni, Vidi, Wiki: Beyond the Wikipedia

The Wikipedia has been a household word since at least 2005. It is an open source encyclopedia available in dozens of languages that allows anyone to create, add, and edit content on any subject. The main page for Classics is here, and features a definition of Classics and has links to many other pages of useful information about philosophy, language, and culture from the ancient Mediterranean world.

The main argument against the Wikipedia is also its core strength: anybody can add to it. So who's minding the store? As with journal articles to scholarly publications, articles are constantly being peer-reviewed by editors-at-large and by other enthusiasts for different topics. The information sorts itself out over time. While students should be cautioned about the accuracy of some of the data and to perhaps use the Wikipedia as a starting point for learning about almost anything, they should not be forbidden to use it at all. A warning to plagiarists: teachers know about the Wikipedia. Do not copy Wikipedia articles as your own for class papers. Open source does not mean “free to publish as one's own”, but does mean the content can be shared and built upon.


But wikis go beyond the Wikipedia. Since the Wikipedia cornered the market as being almost a Borgesian invention of knowledge creation, storage, and retrieval, the concept of wikis has exploded as well. A wiki, generically, is a forum where anyone can add content about anything, and that this information can be edited and added to by others. Wikis are thriving within Classics, and many are open to free membership, once you're confirmed by the wiki's gatekeeper. Here are some examples of Classics wikis with a pedagogic angle:


The Latin Wikipedia, called Vicipaedia, contains nearly 14,000 entries written exclusively in Latin. A search for Gaius Valerius Catullus retrieved his biography, and ancient image of the poet, links to various poems and to sites containing Catullus', collected works, and more, written in Latin (including all of the exposition).


The Digital Classicist is an organization of technically minded Classicists and archaeologists based out of University College London. There wiki is here. Digital Classicist's on-line presence (including its wiki) is described as being, “a web-based hub for scholars and students interested in the application of Humanities Computing to research into the ancient world. The main purpose of the site is to offer guidelines and suggestions of major technical issues. We shall also provide reports on events, publications (print and electronic), and other developments in the field. Criteria for inclusion will be the interest and expertise of collaborators, in general, and of the editors, in particular.”


eClassics regular contributor Dr. Laura Gibbs is a fan of the wiki and has at least one of her own that she manages through a free service called pbwiki. As a distance learning educator, she has taken a fun and useful pedagogical approach to learning Latin via both proverbs and fables. The proverbs approach has its own wiki here.


Also in Latin pedagogy, an anonymous Latin teacher has posted an open source Latin textbook project as a “wikibook”, an open source eBook that can be viewed and edited by anyone wishing to help.


There is a future to Classics wikis, too. I had the occasion to speak with Dr. Chris Francese of Dickinson College at the 2007 ACL Institute and he reminded me of the potential of the wiki regarding Classical authors. Many, many authors already have their own pages in the Wikipedia. It is up to Classicists to flesh out these pages, add to them, provide links, translations, history, historiography, paleography, images, and the like, to build up a collaborative and organic resource for Classics teachers to use in their classes. Dr. Francese also pointed me to a couple of dynamite resources which I have left at my desk at work and will add them below as a comment.


Please contribute to the above wiki resources, or make your own niche within Wikipedia (or start your own pbwiki – which I will do for eClassics in the next few weeks).

I realize that many eClassics members may also have their own wikis or wiki-related projects, or will wish to add to this post in some way. Please share those as comments below!

Views: 15

Comment by Laura Gibbs on July 13, 2007 at 9:31am
Thanks for this great post, Andrew!!!

I am a big user of wikipedia as a general reference and I've often made contributions/corrections. The more people will do this, the better it gets! My Roman Emperors and other widgets regularly contain links back to wikipedia articles - I wouldn't be able to build the widgets without them, since there is no other comparable online resource which is so stable and comprehensive.
http://schoolhousewidgets.com

Also, there was a super discussion about wiki software options over at the classroom2.0 ning. There are lots of possibilities now, with pbwiki just being one of many. Here's a link to the other discussion:
http://tinyurl.com/2tqyq6

I also wanted to note that wiki means "fast" and the whole point of a wiki is being able to publish immediately, without the planning and maintenance required for a website.

The fact that wikis are often collaborative is a "cultural" affordance, but it's not inherent in the technology of the wiki per se. Not all wikis are collborative. I have some group wikis for reading groups where all members of the groups edit it, but the wiki for Latin Via Proverbs and my wiki for Barlow's Aesop are not collaborative - because I have kept the password private.

One of the very nice features at pbwiki is that in the EDUCATOR wikis (no ads!), you can "lock" a page, so that, for example, if you are a teacher, you can put the instructors for an assignment on a page and lock the page so that no one can edit it, but then your students can collaboratively edit the other pages in the wiki that are not locked. You can limit the editing activity to your students only by sharing the password only with them. You can also choose to keep the wiki private, so that people cannot even see the wiki content unless they have the password.

Both blogs and wikis allow instant web publishing - and since all the content in blogs is organized by date, many people who are currently publishing blogs might be better off, in fact, with a wiki.

Until a year or so ago, the number of free, web-based blogging services outnumbered the wiki services, but now the wikis are definitely starting to catch up! It's very exciting!
Comment by Andrew Reinhard on July 17, 2007 at 8:59am
I have a few links to add regarding other Wiki initiatives. Two links come courtesy of Rogueclassicism: the just-born Ouikipaedia (ancient Greek wiki) at http://incubator.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wp/grc and a discussion on its interface and translation of content at http://nike.users.idler.fi/betawiki/Discussion_for_the_Ancient_Greek_interface.

Also, I promised some more info from Dr. Chris Francese at Dickinson College regarding wikis. From Chris:

"My own trial attempts at wikidom are here:
http://vergilsaeneid.wetpaint.com/
I've done a few notes for Book _10_, based on public domain sources as listed in the biblio.

"And here is a Catullus site developed by a couple over very industrious students:
http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/The_Poetry_of_Gaius_Valerius_Catullus"
Comment by Charles Umiker on November 11, 2007 at 2:25pm
In one of my classes, we've been working on articles for Vicipaedia, posting on topics from Jim Carrey to the Wu-Tang Clan. It's a fun way to get students composing in Latin, as they can write on any topic that interests them and get feedback from the Vicipaedia community. Some of Vicipaedians can be a little over-zealous in their criticisms, but we have had a postive experience overall and enjoy posting on the site.

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