CUWiki: my summary

It was a little awkward starting out; I did not know anyone at the meeting and we started a little late and not much was said amongst those of us just sitting around. It was one of those meetings where a lot of people have laptops. Except me. 🙂 Even after we went around the table to introduce ourselves, I still didn’t get about half the names and relationships. I’ll blame that on my bad ears.

So overall, we covered some great ground in our discussions. But we were constrained because of an agenda that we had to get through (and some agenda topics were just ignored). As I told Chris Ritzo, I feel like the group lacks some much needed strong leadership. Also, the business portion of the group needs to be separated from the dialectical aspect, I think. Is it possible to do both together? Personally, I much enjoyed the dialog over and above the agenda-marching. 🙂

Another hangup is the use of a Wiki as a medium to instigate the community to comport, or at least catalyze a fresh new space of collaboration. Abdul and Peter Folk have some excellent intentions, both with slightly different takes; I really appreciated how Abdul acknowledges the soup of myriad opinions and beliefs and wants to season it for best taste. But a wiki?

We looked at two examples, DentonWiki and ArborWiki. Both examples showcase a type of community portal and represent what some of the group want to see happen in CU. There have been a number of attempts (ie, the217, UrbanSpoon) to create portals into areas of life within Champaign, and even grander projects like the early PrairieNet. Hence the nickname of PrairieNet2. Note that there is a PrairieNet2 project, which is not immediately obviously related to CUWiki on the surface, but I do believe that the folks from GSLIS (Kate Williams, Abdul to a degree) tie them together.

My problem with a wiki-based solution is that it is going to take a lot of work to get started. Even if you took a spider crawling approach, someone is still going to have to be the janitor. But moreoever, the term “wiki” comes loaded with a bias towards passivity. In my mind, it is not the creative cauldron that Abdul wants it to be. In some ways, I got to thinking that Second Life might actually be closer to what he has in mind, but that is not wholly fair as it makes light of his thoughts. But that is the analogy that came to mind.

One other big issue I had; this seems like a group that is proposing a solution when the problem is not really clear. We worked on a mission statement, and we boiled it down to two distinct sentences, trying to decide if one was a vision statement instead or not. The basic idea is something like “share ideas, enable collaboration and engage communities”. Sounds catchy, sounds like something good. But what social ill does it address?

We danced around the topic of what the root need is a little bit. Our community has many barriers in place that isolate us. Many of us feel those barriers need to come down. But how to do that? In what ways are barriers good? A fence is a barrier that keeps a child from running off into the street. I believe that some constraints are healthy and good. But surely, the capitalistic, castle-growing society we live in now is antithetical to any sort of social commune.

I am torn about this group. I really like the discussion we had. I am weary of the implementation of technology and the justification of it. Moreso because it ties into UC2B; and in fact, it causes me to really question why we need UC2B. Who is it really benefiting? I do in fact value the critical issue of addressing computer literacy. The way UC2B is rolling out, only the most technologically savvy folks are really going to be using it – the fabled computer training that was supposed to help close the digital divide evaporated out of the grants.

Which brings me to a concluding thought. Brian Bell (present at most of the UCWiki meetings) and Jeff Ginger are currently running free computer literacy classes in multiple locations (Parkland Business Center and all the libraries). I intend to volunteer with one or both of those efforts. Brian has a great deal going with Peter Folk and Volo Net, and has good relationships with area businesses (ie, Volition). Jeff has a great tie into GSLIS and the CI group (you will even see his name on the PrairieNet2 material).

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