Main | July 2005 »

June 27, 2005

How Stuff Is Made: Using Wikis to Structure New Paradigms for Participation

How Stuff is Made (HSIM) is a student-authored visual encyclopedia documenting the manufacturing processes, labor conditions and environmental accounts of contemporary products. It is a collaboratively produced, independent, academic, wiki-based publication. Encyclopedia entries are summative photo essays created by engineering, design and art students guided by faculty who ensure high standards of evidence. (website FAQ page)

The project was initiated by Natalie Jeremijenko, of the University of San Diego. Inspired by the popular "How Stuff Works" website, Jeremijenko created an alternative format that would require her students to look more deeply, and more critically, at the objects they crave. Each semester, students must research a product, complete a photo essay that describes how it is manufactured, and publish the results on the HSIM wiki.


To complete their essays, students must gain access to the manufacturing process. This requirement lessens plagiarism, encourages higher standards of evidence, and helps student gain valuable insight into the human and environmental cost of consumerism. Additionally, as Jeremijenko notes, "it is not a bad idea if students of business, engineering and design are required to visit a manufacturing facility at least once in their college career." When the finished essays are published to the wiki, students must send notification to the product manufacturer with instructions regarding where to find the essay and how to edit its contents.

This project represents an interesting alternative to textbooks. Rather than passively receiving information, students are required to participate in the creation of open source knowledge. This helps them understand the process of knowledge creation and sharpens their critical faculties. Additionally, publishing an essay to a public site, heightens accountability. Students have been known to continue editing their wiki articles long after class is over.

In her abstract for the Share, Share Widely conference, Dr. Jeremijenko claims that the HSIM project provides "...evidence that the way we structure participation changes what information is produced, who produces it, and how it circulates." Additionally, the work "provides material to question what these changes may mean for learning."

Posted by kim white at 10:11 AM

June 14, 2005

Decameron Web: A Growing Hypermedia Archive of Materials Dedicated to Boccaccio's Masterpiece


A true encyclopedia of early modern life and a summa of late medieval culture, the Decameron is also a universal repertory of perennially human situations and dilemmas: it is the perfect subject for an experiment in a new form of scholarly and pedagogical communication aimed at renewing a living dialogue between a distant past and our present.

Started by graduate and undergraduate students in 1994 at Brown University's Italian Studies program, under the direction of Prof. Massimo Riva, Decameron Web has grown steadily up to the present day, providing a broad range of resources for scholars, students and general readers. Decameron Web suggests what might come to replace the conventional print textbook in the humanities: a dynamic learning environment through which investigators (at varying levels of experience) can trace trajectories.

The site can serve as a primer for newcomers to the Decameron, with useful sections on Boccaccio's period and literary influences, and profiles of major characters and themes. A more advanced scholar can take advantage of complete, searchable texts in Italian and English, period music recordings, an extensive critical bibliography, and analytical tools such as a motif index and a concordance. The "pedagogy" section provides resources that teachers and students can use in their courses - reading guides, sample papers, course modules, and a variety of articles on the meaningful use of technology in the classroom.


Decameron Web is not a static space:

...this collection of materials will continue to grow in years to come, as students and scholars at Brown University and other institutions contribute syllabi, successful teaching strategies, new essays, interpretations, images, and so forth.

It is, however, more closed than open. Authority is maintained by strict editorial oversight, and new modules, syllabi and resources are added through these filters. As it stands now, Decameron Web is an outstanding reference work with an array of useful tools. The site changes slowly over time, but does not at present provide forums for the community to engage with itself. The network of scholars and students that has arisen around Decameron Web would be well served by a more dynamic social software platform, one that could be built into the existing architecture. This could consist of a simple discussion board, or a community weblog for news and developments. It could also include more sophisticated tools like multi-player analytical games, or spaces for collaborative projects. We believe this should be the next stage of Decameron Web's evolution - to truly explore a "new form of scholarly and pedagogical communication."

(page on Pasolini's film of The Decameron)

Posted by ben vershbow at 11:29 AM