Collaboration Tools: Scary or Revelatory?

Words like community bring out the warm fuzzies in me, until I start to think about the complexities of actually working in a community and negotiating among different perspectives. I’m wondering what scholarship might mean in an intensely collaborative and social Web 2.0 environment, so I began by trying to wikify my research project (morphing a dissertation on bachelors into digital scholarship). As I opened up my writing to others, I had two big fears:

  1. No one will participate, so there won’t be much of an experiment in community at all. Still, I will be able to view my own revision history and gain some understanding about how going digital is changing my research. (This seems like the more likely prospect.)
  2. People will participate, and I’ll lose control over my work. Do I really want people rewriting my research project? Will the ideas still be mine? What if vandals rampage my writing?

I decided that a system that allows comments rather than complete re-writing was more appropriate, so I decided to use the Institute for the Future of the Book’s Comment Press application, an add-on to the Word Press blogging platform.  Several other collaborative authoring project are using Comment Press, including The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age with HASTAC (Humanities, Arts, Science, and Technology Advanced Collaboratory), GAM3R 7H30RY 1.1 by McKenzie Wark, and The Iraq Study Group Report with Lapham’s Quarterly.  

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