Wikiversity:Individualism versus collectivism in resource creation and usage

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This page is about the nature and possiblity of communities (of learning, research, etc) at Wikiversity.

Introduction[edit]

In the early days of Wikiversity, in the years 2006 and preceding, two concepts dominated thinking about what Wikiversity should be. One of these concepts was the “university model”, which modeled Wikiversity as closely as possible on real-world universities. The other concept was an “communitarian-egalitarian” concept (“CE-Model”). It is possible that some participants had further ideas and did not necessarily subscribe to the one or other point of view.

Although it was never formally stated precisely what these two viewpoints were, we can state them, in extreme form, thus:

  • The university model favoured the individual, hierarchical creation of resources in a repository-like fashion. Qualified experts would create Wikiversity content as a collection of Open Courseware, which students could then sign up for, participate in and gain credit for.
  • The CE-Model favoured the community-based anti-hierarchical creation of resources. Wikiversity would be a series of permanent events rather than a repository. The events would be topic-based environments in which leaderless communities learnt from the act of collaborative resource creation rather from the passage of knowledge from knower to learner.

The models probably existed, as theories, in both “hard” and “soft” forms. In soft forms, adherents would subscribe to qualified or weakened versions of the model. For example, within the university model, some may have placed more emphasis on student contributions and less emphasis on qualified experts. Or another example, CE-Model adherents may nevertheless have gone ahead and created resources which reflected expertise and leadership.

The “crisis” of Wikiversity self-reflection in its first years was that neither of these models worked.

  • The university model, in its hard form, was rejected by the board, but would probably never have worked anyway as it was technically illegal (true universities require accreditation; qualified staff could never have been attracted in sufficient numbers).
  • The CE-Model failed, in its hard form, again for a number of reasons. One was an insufficient userbase to create the desired communities. But it is quite possible that even with a sufficient userbase, the leaderlessness of these communities would have produced dissatisfying or low quality educational experiences.

Steps towards revised models[edit]

  1. Separating individual from hierarchical and collective from egalitarian. The original models conflated individualism with hierarchicalism and collectivism with egalitarianism. In terms of how organisations work and are thought about, this conflation is wrong.
  2. Recognizing that the scales individual-collective and hierarchical-egalitarian are sliding scales, not either-or options.
  3. Working out what we mean by the word "community".
  4. Recognising that actual Wikiversity experience demonstrates the existence of different community types.

Discussion[edit]

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See also[edit]