More wired than a Roman Internet café
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!