Wikilearning and Postdigital Critical Pedagogy
Wikilearning and Postdigital Critical Pedagogy
Juha Suoranta, Keynote, Network Learning Conference 2018, Zagreb May 15, 2018
Wikilearning is a form of self-organized and self-determined learning. It enables and leans on voluntary participation, altruistic sharing of ideas and resources, and anonymous collectivism. It contains an ideological and political message: It trusts and builds on people’s knowledge, and aims to promote a world in which knowledge production is democratic and equal among all peoples. In a word, wikilearning is exercising democracy on a small scale.
‘Postdigital critical pedagogy’ describes and tries to capture the state and the sociopolitical landscape of learning after the digitization of the channels of education through which we communicate; that is, after the fact that digitalization has immersed into education and broken the traditional boundaries of formal and informal teaching and learning.
Wikiworld and Wikilearning
The Wikiworld is built through the ‘collaborative turn’, or what is called participatory culture, which includes relatively low barriers to civic engagement and activism, artistic and other sorts of expression, easy access for creating and sharing one’s outputs with others, peer-to-peer relations and informal mentorship, as well as new forms of socialization, social connections, collectivism and solidarity”.
Eight Features of Wikilearning
First and foremost grand narrative of the enlightenment and progress through education and accumulation of knowledge condense in wikilearning. An ontological assumption is that human beings are rational, and in partnership with others can change things into better by means of information and knowledge. In this tone a catch phrase of the current digital era could be: “All the learners of the world, wikify!”
Second, epistemologically wikilearning is based on the assumption that knowledge is a social construct. In wikilearning this assumption is validated as people create wikis by writing, editing and commenting on them. Knowledge building and negotiation are transparent and, in principal, radically democratic processes. Wikilearning can be used as a tool for practicing and reflecting the production and legitimation of knowledge.
Third, Wikilearning is a radically open form of learning. State laws or education policies do not regulate it, that is, it is not usually part of the nation state’s top-down educational system, but an independent activity in the informal settings of civil society. Wikilearning demands that all content are open access and free for all.
Fourth, wikilearning makes and takes everyone radically equal—the starting point is the freedom of everyone to participate, create, and use the materials. It is not regulated by academic degrees and does not intend to produce a rival hierarchy or order of rank. In fact, the hierarchy in disorganization is typically task-based, contextual, informal and susceptible to rapid changes. Moreover, in wikilearning experts, dependent on formal professional training, are replaced by the self-taught and the autodidact.
Fifth, wikilearning nurtures reflective uncertainty, at least in principle, for wiki-pages are editable and thus in an ongoing process of change towards accuracy: the ‘edit’ and ‘history’ buttons in every wiki page potentially increase learners’ capacities, in Freire’s words, “to read the word and the world”.
Sixth, wikilearning is a form of collaborative learning, of mass collaboration and crowdsourcing, meaning that people in various ways participate in building wikis: they write, edit, comment, suggest and evaluate, and there is no-one (teacher, facilitator, mentor) who knows in advance, who has the right answers, or who is ready to transplant information into someone’s head. Wikilearning promotes global open collaboration that potentially goes beyond and transgresses national, gender, age, ethnic, and economic boundaries.
Seven, wikilearning is characterized by voluntary participation extending to the decision to participate or not; to learn or not; to be involved or not. Often the intensity and role of participation varies: sometimes a user can only act a visitor who uses the information, and sometimes a contributor who creates, evaluates and debates. Ideally wikilearning occurs in a peer-to-peer mode, that is, by learning from each other, and helping each other to learn.
Eight, wikilearners are often strangers and even anonymous to each other as they write from their localities, but in a way this strangeness highlights the idea of international solidarity between people in their efforts to increase the free and open use of educational resources. (Suoranta & Vadén 2012.)
Wikilearning and the Promise of the Communist Internet
In contrast to the triviality of the formal freedom critical pedagogy goes beyond formal freedom and emphasises actual freedom. It is, as Žižek has pointed out, “the capacity to ’transcend’ the coordinates of a given situation (...) to redefine the very situation within which one is active.” (Žižek 2001). Educational researcher Eric Weiner has captured the idea of actual freedom nicely:
“It is not enough to be free to speak, if those who are speaking do not have the power to create the conditions in which they can be heard. Likewise, it is not adequate to be free to choose if the choice about what choices can be made has already been made by someone else. This level of freedom is for suckers; it is for those who choose unquestionably between Coke and Pepsi, but never think about who decides what goes into the machine.” (Weiner 2007, p. 260.)
Thus it is not enough to have free access to the Internet, to be creative in digital platforms, publish one’s opinions, works of art, or scientific results freely; another condition must be met, too: the means of production—computers and servers, energy resources and the Internet services—must be owned someone else than private business. They must be owned collectively by all members of a group for the benefit of all its members. The size of a group can vary, say, from a neighborhood or a community to a nation.
Christian Fuchs, a critical media scholar, a major proponent of the idea of the communist Internet and its social consequences, explains the idea as follows:
“The communist Internet is an association of free produsers that is critical, self-managed, surveillance-free, beneficial for all, freely accessible for all, fostering wealth for all, co-operative, classless and universal. On the communist Internet, there is no profit and no advertising and there are no corporations. In a communist Internet age, programmers, administrators and users control Internet platforms by participatory self-management. Network access is provided free to all and there are no corporate Internet service providers. Internet literacy programs are widely available in schools and adult education in order to enable humans to develop capacities that allow them to use the Internet in meaningful ways that benefit themselves and society as a whole. All humans have free access to web platforms, computer software and hardware. Computing is non-profit, non-commercial, non-commodified and advertising-free. There is no corporate mediation of Internet communication; humans engage more directly with each other over the Internet without the mediation by corporations that own platforms and exploit communicative labour.” (Fuchs 2014, p. 242.)
Wikilearning is not only a manifestation of radical openness of education, but also show in practice what emancipated people can do; what those who have decided to think for themselves can achieve in co-operation with other human beings. In the Wikiworld there is no center of power and no vanguards controlling people’s self-directed digital developments and educational interactions. Quite reverse, in the Wikiworld people are marching side by side on the information superhighways—by talking, reading, writing and editing together. Wikilearning is already a colossal global movement and people are participating in millions. In terms of critical pedagogy this marks a new epoch of overcoming the age of education as profit-making and turning to create equality by coming together, learning together and doing together as already equals.
Fuchs, C. (2014). Social Media. A Critical Introduction. Thousand Oaks: Sage.
Suoranta, J. & Vadén, T. (2012). Wikilearning as Radical Equality. In Trifonas, P. (ed.). Learning the Virtual Life : Public Pedagogy in a Digital World. New York: Routledge, 98-113.
Weiner, E. (2007). Readin' Class, Droppin' Out. In Kincheloe, J. & Steinberg, S. (Eds.) Cutting Class. Socioeconomic Status and Education. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 223–261.
Žižek, S. (2001) The Leninist Freedom. https://www.marxists.org/reference/subject/philosophy/works/ot/zizek.htm