Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Tonkin's 'Making the Case for a Wiki'

One of the first pieces that I have read for my dissertation is: Tonkin's 'Making the Case for a Wiki'.

The section I found most interesting was that titled 'Issues in Deployment'. Of particular interest:

'Even in the event of a wiki being made available, there is no guarantee that the opportunity will be seen as useful.' Tonkin feels that the difficulties include 'communication difficulties, lack of common ground, status issues in human relationships.'

Interestingly she links the likelihood of posting on a wiki to both gender and aggression: 'it is justifiable to theorise that wiki use -- and indeed motivation to contribute -- is likely to vary by gender, status and relationship to the apparent community.' and 'one might imagine that correcting a wiki page is an act that comes easier to certain individuals than to others, and one in which aggression plays a significant role.'

My first gut reaction was that it seemed unlikely that this link to gender be true. In my experience men might be slightly more likely to spend time on the internet, and therefore might be more likely to come across a Wiki. I don't think they would necessarily, however, be more likely to contribute than women. I'm also slightly uncomfortable with the word 'aggression'. I think those that contribute to a Wiki are likely to be confident, forthright and perhaps opinionated, but not necessarily aggressive. It will be interested to watch the contributions to the BPMA Wiki for signs of aggressive behaviour! I'd also be interested to hear others' thoughts on Tonkin's comments.

Tonkin also stresses the immense importance of getting to know your audience - 'if you cannot imagine your target group conversing comfortably together under normal circumstances, the chances are fairly slim that they will imagine they can either ... much less online.'

I think under certain circumstances BPMA audiences would be quite capable of conversing on various subjects. The challenge for us is more likely to be, I think, encouraging our core audience, many of whom are over 60, to embrace this new technology.

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Anonymous Ewan said...

On the face of it I think I
understand what you mean when you say you're not comfortable with the use of 'aggression', but in the context of wikis and the net it's as if she's creating a new definition of the word - online aggression doesn't necessarily translate directly from the sort of aggression that starts drunken fights in the pub on Friday night, but might refer to a certain over-assertive type of poster who overshadows and intimidates other users through a blustering, arrogant 'knowitall' style. That's not in any way meant to defend people who post in that way, it's definitely something to be discouraged; no-one should feel unable to express an opinion because of other people's bad manners.

12 March 2008 at 10:33  
Blogger Rhiannon Looseley said...

I take your point that aggression might not necessarily need to have quite the negative connotations that it might with drunken fights etc, but I still think that Tonkin is assuming a certain negative attitude in the people most likely to post on a Wiki that I feel uncomfortable with. It may well prove to be true but I think it would be disappointing if only Wiki posts were mostly by 'aggressive' types.

12 March 2008 at 10:42  
Anonymous ewan said...

I entirely agree with you that it would be very disappointing if only negative or "aggressive" posts appeared on a wiki, and perhaps the sort of person most likely to post on any interactive website is likely to be the sort who feels the need to challenge, to overawe and dominate other people and generally try to assert their own self-perceived superiority; that could well have the effect of driving away people who might otherwise have made more measured, thoughtful and useful posts, which could of course only be detrimental to the aims of the wiki. It's a very difficult variable to quantify; just when does a post start to become negative or aggressive? and in the case of a large number of posts, how can you determine the balance of positive and negative? Maybe some comparison with another public forum (just off the top of my head, the BBC news site's 'have your say' page might be useful for this) would help to give some idea of how people interact with each other in this sort of environment? I hope this isn't going too far away from the original point!

12 March 2008 at 11:28  

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