Pepperdine Students from Masters in Learning Technologies Program

WikiMinds: Rapid Mindsharing over the Web

(or) Groupware: How Wikis are changing our Notions of Collaborative Work

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • History of Knowledge Sharing
    • Evolution of Communication
    • Shifting the Distribution of Power
    • A Brief History of the Internet
  • Web 2.0
  • Wikis
    • Definition
    • Opportunities and Challenges
    • Examples of Wiki Use:
      • Schools (K-12)
      • Colleges and Universities
      • Graduate Studies
      • Non-Profit Organizations
      • Private Sector Workplaces
      • Medical Societies and Organizations
      • Military
  • References
  • Links


Knowledge exists within a social environment. It evolves, flourishes, or dies out relative to of its value to the society in which it comes to exist. For much of human history this process has been oral, a passing down of knowledge from person to person, this created a dissemination process that was generational and unreliable. With the invention of writing, the spreading of knowledge became far more reliable but it also became the limited privilege of a select few who had a very rare skill set, as well as access to the means of production. This step forward was followed by the invention of the Gutenberg printing press which completely rendered the rare skill set of scribes moot, the first barrier to knowledge fell. In the industrialized world of the 18th-20th centuries the main barriers to knowledge were the cost of production and delivery. This financial impediment stood for hundreds of years, growing in scope as the population of knowledge recipients grew. The production cost for Benjamin Franklin's newspapers is exponentially dwarfed by the production costs of The New York Times, which are again dwarfed by the production costs of the National Broadcasting Company. However, since the advent of the internet this financial barrier is finally disappearing, and the landscape of knowledge generation will be fundamentally changed forever.

Our impetus to share ideas with one another has been aided by a variety of ever-improving technologies across millennia of recorded and speculative history. The genesis of language, the written word, movable type and the printing press, broadcast
media like radio and television, and the internet and World Wide Web all represent significant steps forward in our ability to disseminate ideas for public digest. Prior to the advent of more inclusive technologies, the internet is best understood as merely an electronic version of broadcast media; a small group of content producers had access to the means of production, and that group was able to decide what content would be visible to the masses. This "read-only" web was a natural first step for the internet as an emerging technology, but widespread adoption of new attitudes about knowledge production via the Web is changing the way ideas are generated and communicated.

The "read-write" Web, commonly referred to as Web 2.0, represents a significant shift in the nature of online communication and content generation. By nearly eliminating the barriers of entry for content distribution, Web 2.0 technologies give the average user access to the means of production previously restricted to an elite few. This takes a variety of forms including, but not limited to, product reviews, blogs, photo sharing, and social networking. Never before have so many individuals been able to distribute content to so many others, and this shift is altering more than just the nature of broadcast media.

This shift is most visible in the prevalence and success of the Wiki, a system that allows the immediate alteration of a collaborative webpage. Wikis are unique because they not only enable the widespread distribution of ideas but also provide a platform for the generation and refining of ideas. Wikipedia is the most well-known example of the transformative potential of this platform, but it is far from the only example. Like any other tool, wikis can impart a number of advantages to groups that choose to use them, but there are challenges to be dealt with as well. Many collaborative environments are being changed by the use of wikis as a tool for communication and collaboration, including schools, corporate and non-profit organizations, the medical industry, and even the military.

History of Knowledge Sharing

Evolution of Communication

Humans have traditionally been able to pool bodies of common knowledge into a mechanism to enlighten the masses. Like all animals, humans use non-verbal cues and signals to communication. Unlike other animals,however, humans have developed a complex spoken language that serves as a primary technology for interaction. Crying, a form of spoken language, is the first mediating tool that the infant learns. Although spoken language is a powerful form of communication, it has limitations. Perhaps the greatest of these limitations is that spoken language can only be used in social settings with people who are co-present.

Unlike spoken language, the evolution of graphics and written language make it possible to create social and cultural contexts that move beyond place and time, thus enabling communication with people who are not co-present. This distributed form of cognition is dependent on the technology that we develop for distance and distributed interactions. The invention of the printing press, for example, enabled rapid near-perfect duplication of the written word, disseminated through physically transporting printed media. Of course, this written communication only functions for those who have reading comprehension. Later electronic broadcast media inventions such as the telegraph, radio, television, and the internet are the technologies that have enabled near-instantaneous dissemination of information from a few to the masses, and have paved the way to humans' present level of distributed cognition.

The second generation of the internet, also known as "Web 2.0", moves away from reception to production, enabling the communication and collaboration of the many to the many. Users are also producers, and knowledge has become less defined by those with access to means of production and more the product of the combined efforts of those who actually use the knowledge.

One might envision this "evolution of communication" as a proliferation and widening of the channels connecting the minds of individuals. Spoken word is a thread between a few people near each other, while written word is a physical object enabling and improving that thread across space and time. The distribution of written word is an army of that object spreading to a mass, while broadcast media enables word to spread instantly over wide distances from originating points. Last, Web 2.0 is the creation of a persistent, dynamic, interactive object at the intersection of the collaboration of a multitude.

Shifting the Distribution of Power

Recently there has been a shift of power from corporations to individuals. Examples of this include:
    • Movie studios
    • TV networks
    • Telecommunication companies
    • The shift from newspapers to other forms of media news
    • The movement from print magazines to online versions. This sometimes occurs internally, sometimes as a result of print form failing and its online equivalent springing up as an answer to the need
    • Government controlling content

Enlightening the masses can sometimes bring about global crisis (e.g. Propaganda, Here-say, Military (Government) Intelligence gathering).

A Brief History of the Internet

Web 2.0

What is Web 2.0?

Web 2.0 is the term given to describe a second generation of the World Wide Web that is focused on the ability of people to collaborate and share information online. The term Web 2.0 primarily refers to the transition from static HTML web pages to a more dynamic Web that is more organized and serves varying web applications to users. The improved functionality of Web 2.0 allows it to provide open communication with an emphasis on Web-based communities of users, and more collaborative sharing of information. Blogs, wikis, social networking sites, and Web services are all seen as components of Web 2.0. One of the most significant differences between Web 2.0 and the traditional World Wide Web (retroactively referred to as Web 1.0) is greater collaboration among Internet users and other users, content providers and enterprises.

History of Web 2.0

In her book, Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good (Lacy,2008), Sarah Lacy shares the story of the revival of Silicon Valley. No longer an environment controlled by bureaucratic venture capitalist, entrepreneurs such as Peter Thiel and his group, The Founders Fund provide the funding that changes what is being produced in the technological world. The evidence of this change is seen in what is known as "Web 2.0."
Although the term “Web 2.0” is believed to have first been used in 1999 by Darci DiNucci in an article written for Print Magazine , "Fragmented Future," and by Joe Firmage in 2003 when he used the term to describe the idea of using the internet as a platform, “Web 2.0” as we know it today was formulated by Tim O’Reilly and MediaLive International in 2004 to describe the new way in which the web is being used.
The web can now be used for more than sending e-mails, downloading music, and reading online articles, features of the Web 1.0 (also known as the World Wide Web). When asked to describe the competencies of Web 2.0, O’Reilly provided the following from "What is Web 2.0" :
  • services, not packaged software, with cost-effective scalability
  • control over unique, hard-to-recreate data sources that get richer as more people use them
  • trusting users as co-developers
  • harnessing collective intelligence
  • leveraging the long tail through customer self-service
  • software above the level of a single device
  • lightweight user interfaces, development models, AND business models.

Features of Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is not really a 'version' in that it is something released by a group to the masses, but is rather understood as a re-imagining of the "read only" web to the "read-write" web.

Web 2.0 enables sociability. In educational terms, it enables students to be part of the production of information. Take for instance the traditional essay. The traditional essay used in most classrooms is only being read by the professor. The professor grades it and returns it to the student. With Web 2.0, teachers can ask students to produce a 2 to 5 minute audio recording or video that explains an idea or concept being discussed in class. Their information can now be viewed by classmates, friends and other global audiences. The deliverables for a class have an educational value for both of the sharing of content to Web 2.0 users and the student who has now authored and published his or her knowledge.

Web 2.0 enables students to learn, think, create, and communicate while participating in a specific subject area. It encourages students to analyze and apply principles, further developing their intellectual functioning.

Furthermore, Web 2.0 forces teachers to ask the question, "Why?" Because single "What?" questions can be quickly and easily answered online, teachers are challenged to formulate questions that entice research and curiosity.

Web 2.0 blurs the line between the expert and the novice.

Examples of Web 2.0


















Definition of a Wiki

A wiki is a website where people can quickly create, revise or change the content through addition, deletion or editing of the material. The word 'wiki' comes from a Hawaiian phrase, 'wiki wiki', which means 'super fast'. If someone has access to the internet and finds a wiki server, then he or she can quickly become an author using basic word processing skills to design a website.

A feature common to wiki pages is the edit button. If a user approaches a wiki website, they are able to edit, save, and make these changes immediately visible to others who read the webpage. Wikis allow people to collaborate with others to produce a single product. This allows for each person's knowledge to be shared with a larger community. In other words, it allows people to come together to build the best possible resource.

Wiki sites maintain a history of the changes that are made so that users can see how the pages are developed over time. Users can also revert to a previous version of the page if necessary. Wikis often have discussion boards or comment sections attached to them where users can discuss a page without making edits to the material.

Technically a Wiki, like Wikipedia or this site in Wikispaces , is a website built on the wiki software platform, that allows every user to collaboratively view, edit, and publish content (including audio, media, graphics, text and and links ) almost instantly, to a series of webpages, using a browser based content management system.

From a use perspective, a wiki is a type of collaborative work space. It is a collection of web pages that allows and encourages users to contribute or modify content. A wiki uses a simple web interface which allows collaboration from anywhere. There are two types of wikis; open or closed. An open wiki allows anyone to edit or make changes. A closed wiki allows community members to edit.

Opportunities and Challenges

The Opportunities of Advantages of Wikis:
The Challenges or Disadvantages of Wikis:
Quick and easy way to get down ideas for your projects. It gives you time to go back and formalize and edit your writing.
If your wiki goes "public" too soon, it may seem incomplete or too raw to those reading it. You want to ensure that your wiki is polished before you send it out to be read by the general public. You don't necessarily want them to see your thought process, only the final project.
The collaboration is instantaneous. You don't have to email the document to each other, the group can work at it all at the same time and edit as necessary.
The wiki needs to be maintained to a certain degree. You need to make sure that the information flows logically from one point to the other. You don't want to display an inadequate string of thoughts with no organization to them.
If you have an internet connection, then your wiki is available to be worked on at any time.
Commit to managing the content. You need to set a standard for how you want the information presented and ensure that it is presented that way. If this does not happen, the result may be a wiki that no one can follow or understand.
Most of the wiki programs keep a history of what's been done so at any time you can go back to a previous revision and restore it.
If you open your wiki up to public editing, you need to go back and police the material to ensure that the idea behind your wiki hasn't been derailed.
It is exciting, empowering and provides immediate feedback. People can see their work published immediately without any difficulty. What a rush!
You need some knowledge of how to edit text so that others know what has been changed.
Your original work can be shared, edited, and can influence people around the world.
It may be difficult to verify the accuracy/quality of information being posted.
Different cultures and communities can combine ideas, ideals, norms, differences, traditions, and more into developing the ideas.
The wiki risks SPAM and misuse if not managed properly.
Wikis foster collaboration across boundaries.
Some training may be required for non-technical users.
Because they are available to a community and share knowledge, wikis consequently build trust among its members. The community determines who can contribute.
Not all community members may have equal access.
A wiki is a collaborative work space. It allows information management which in turn can decrease time, energy, and resources spent by its members. Travel is reduced for meetings, information can be easily found and hyperlinked, and attachments need not be used.
Lose some of the personal interaction and connection to others.

Examples of Wiki Use

Shared work spaces are changing environments where people work together in:

Schools (K-12)
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College and Universities
external image BelushiCollege.jpeg
Graduate studies
external image graduate.jpg
Non-Profit Organizations

external image volunteer_1.gif
Private Sector Workplaces
external image 003-work_paper.png
Medical Societies and Organizations