to construct a global cultural commons — a repository of knowledge and thought, free and open to all — in which we assemble and advance the world's responses to the basic question, what educates?
This substantive purpose differs from that of Wikipedia, but it will be achieved, nevertheless, through the work of peer production, which Wikipedia has brilliantly pioneered. In spirit StudyPlace affirms and adopts many of the policies and guidelines for Wikipedia. Wikipedia policies on respecting other contributors (see Wikipedia:Civility, Wikipedia:Etiquette, and Wikipedia:Dispute_resolution.) and against infringing copyright (see Wikipedia:Copyrights) are thoroughly suitable for StudyPlace. Other key Wikipedia policies, for instance those on avoiding bias, are appropriate for StudyPlace too. Moreover, since MediaWiki runs both StudyPlace and Wikipedia, most help resources on Wikipedia serve just as well for StudyPlace.
General similarities notwithstanding, there are some important differences between the StudyPlace ethos and the Wikipedia ethos. For example, the Wikipedia policy against including original research makes very good sense for a general, comprehensive encyclopedia. Though StudyPlace includes Wiki-ed, a project to develop a specialized encyclopedia of education — for which the Wikipedia policy against original research holds — for the most part StudyPlace aims to advance knowledge and understanding, not to report or summarize existing knowledge. This is to say: Whereas Wikipedia documents the present in all its historicity, formally refraining from producing or advancing original thought, StudyPlace encourages the production of original thought, in so far as it is rooted in sociohistorical awareness. Another important difference is that StudyPlace deals with a more circumscribed phenomenological realm than Wikipedia. Wikipedia is vast, expansive, and aims at being comprehensive; StudyPlace, on the other hand, maintains a specialized concern with education.
These distinctions are not hard and fast, and need to be worked out. They are not to overlook the obvious, that the whole idea of original thought — and the corresponding realm of educational phenomena — is in question amid our period of great historical change. Wikipedia, of course, is growing quickly, and in so doing it is bringing concepts and issues to the human encyclopedia that have heretofore been seen as irrelevant. In this sense Wikipedia contributors are documenting the emergence of original thought, even despite their inclination not to employ original research. Hence, the boundary lines between StudyPlace and Wikipedia are hard to draw with confidence. At this point it is probably safe to say that StudyPlace will become a specialized, scholarly work, whereas Wikipedia is a very comprehensive general encyclopedia. But the question of when and how the potentials of a very comprehensive work morph into those of a specialized, scholarly work is an open one, and an interesting inquiry at that.
StudyPlace is in its initial stages of development and it is not likely to develop along a straight line. Some aspects of what it can become will emerge more quickly. These zig zags will affect the articulation of its policies and guidelines. In some ways these are both most important and least relevant when there is little of substance in StudyPlace. As a digital commons becomes self-exemplifying through its contents, these communicate what it is and how it works to most users. When such self-exemplification is unavailable, stated policies and guidelines may be more important as guides to potential contributors who want to get with the program, as the phrase goes. At the same time, in the early stages of a digital commons, with the effort starved for content, just about anything goes. Putting up incomplete and tentative contributions is very helpful, for in a context of peer production, they can be filled out and redirected as contributors choose. Initially policies and guidelines may proliferate, with an initial version of many possibilities, and as users interlace with these and as they settle into a growing context of substantive contributions, some will get refined and others discarded and the gap between principle and practice will narrow.
Here are some tentative policies for now, to be filled in and revised as content emerges:
In a Wiki, editing means everything from conceiving the idea for a new page and representing it by an empty link, to writing an initial version of a page, to revising and expanding what you find on a page, to making corrections or minor additions to its content, grammar, and diction. In a Wiki, editing encompasses all the activities of writing for publication from the initial drafting of a text to its printed publication. In a Wiki, the traditional processes of writing are continuous, unending, and open to anyone. In a Wiki, editing is a decentralized, spontaneous collaboration, aimed at drafting, revising, and publishing a text of meaning and value to potential readers. Editing in a Wiki is a different way of writing, at first a disconcerting way. The admonition — Be bold! — exhorts you to take the leap, to start editing in all its modes wherever you see the opportunity. Be bold! Surprise! It works!
Wikipedia stresses the importance of a neutral point of view. On StudyPlace let us respect the responsibility to work from a neutral point of view as something to rely on when one cannot meet more difficult standards. The assertion of powerful, original thought may not always be neutral, but when the thinker departs from neutrality, he must accept the responsibility to be inclusive of all things relevant, to recognize the permanent possibility that he may be shown to be erring, and to justify any call to action, not on a claim to truth, but on a declared judgment of ends and means and an explicit accountability for the possible consequences. When considerations on StudyPlace are full enough, deep enough, and respectful enough to meet these standards, then let them transcend the neutral point of view.
- Be inquisitive (HAQs, FAQs, LUQs, and PIQs)
- Importance of Original Thought
- Critical intelligence
- Copious considerations
- Listen and read well
- Humor facilitates, anger impedes
- Do not suffer fools