(image: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4077/4762164468_fd6440bb0e_m.jpg)

Wikis And Traditional Composing

Writing in a wiki means revisiting the processes and practices that we learned for traditional composition. Wiki writers adapt, create, and experiment with the hard-won practices of old.


Writing the wiki draws on traditional writing practices: making notes, brainstorming, roughing things out, organizing, revising. However, to get the most out of a wiki, we adapt these practices. We work them together. We collaborate, change, and rewrite with one other.


Writing the wiki also adds new practices: using heads and subheads, working within the structural layout, starting new spaces, establishing webs of hyper-linked text. The wiki encourages creation of linked topics. Matter of fact, writing on a wiki demands creating the node and being aware of links which shows how EverythingIsIntertwingled on the wiki. Linking within the wiki, linking to outside pages, and adding images--each of these provide new options for invention and development, articulation and organization.


Writing the wiki calls for experimental writing and ultimately creating the CollaborativeWriting process. We might try a paragraph but find it cumbersome. Another wiki writer may move the paragraph into a list. Maybe that will work well. If it does not, another wiki writer, is sure to try splitting the list into separate, smaller paragraphs. Somewhere along the way, the experiments begin turning out better. The wiki begins to grow in knowledge and clarity.


There is little reason to bemoan the move from paper to wiki. All writing practices are not homogenous. You probably draw on a variety of conventions when composing, depending on the rhetorical situation. And you have surely adapted your practices to new situations already. Didn't email changed the way you wrote to family and friends? And texting? So will wikis.

[Not yet sure how to fit the rest of this in. It was left-over when I tried reorganizing. SarahPeterson]

Get out your mobile phone and compose a short text message (160 characters, max) to a friend.
How do you proceed? Do you write Notes? Do an Outline? How about a Draft? Edit?

Composing text messages on a mobile phone is nothing like traditional composing - and it's everything like traditional composing. That is, writers of sms draft, revise, and edit in their heads on their way to composing the text message. But they don't linger on the process, they don't divide their work into stages, and they don't pay much attention to where they are in the process.

It's just text - send - repeat.

Of course, there are wonderful complications, like this txt poem by Hetty Hughes from The Guardian Texting Poetry Context, 2001.

txtin iz messin
mi headn me englis
try2rite essays
they all come out txtis.
gran not plsed w/letters
shes getn,
swears i wrote better
b4 comin2uni,
&she's african

[link to Guardian] sms poems from the Guardian Text Message Poetry competition, The Guardian, May 3, 2001

Writers were supposed to compose their poems on the mobile phone. That's a difficult task that, in this case, probably demanded revision, rethinking, and reconsideration, phone in hand, while composing. Typically, we compose short messagages quickly and pointedly, trying to keep the technology out of the way of the acts of composing. That we can also use the mobile to write tiny jewels of haiku-like poems points up just how we adapt process to the writing space.
adapting practices for new spaces

Look at sms shorthand, the short lines, the lack of punctuation, the telegraphic, terse style. We adapt our writing practices to composing on a mobile phone, adjusting to the characteristics and constraints of the technology: 160 character limit on the message; tiny screens, 10-key keypads. It's not completely relearning writing. We draw on what we know, and we adapt our practices to the new writing space.

Writers on wikis have developed and adapted techniques to make the most of these characteristics.
collaborative and always on

And so
The processes, the focus, the shape of writing changes on a wiki, so writers need to learn new strategies for working. Some of these are procedural (how to create and name and rename topics); others are more conceptual ??

The space is always on, and compresses the writing process. With a word processor, you write, revise, edit, print or email to someone. With a wiki, your work is published as you write. The writing space is the publishing space. The writing space is hypertextual. The writing space is collaborative. And that changes everything.

[This page might need renaming or breaking out to articulate that it deals with differences/changes between paper and wiki.]


There are no comments on this page.
Valid XHTML :: Valid CSS: :: Powered by WikkaWiki