The WasteFlake project uses the Internet technology known as Wiki to facilitate true collaboration among scholars around the world, addressing issues at the interface between culture and science.

The Internet as a collaborative tool among scientists and like-minded individuals has only begun to exhibit its potential. Electronic discussion lists permit free flow interaction between scholars in a given field; internet journals allow online scholarly publication to become more widely disseminated; web sites allow scholars to define their own publication rates and styles. Still, immediate communication and open collaboration among researcherswhether based in universities or not, in different departments or fields of endeavor, in different countries and in different languageshas eluded us. Until now.

Wiki Technology

In 1995, Ward Cunningham invented Wiki Technology. Cunningham is an Oregon programmer who wanted to create "the simplest online database that could possibly work," in order to permit fellow programmers to collaborate on projects. The word "Wiki" is short for "Quick Web"; and it is an astoundingly simple interface for online communication. Using a Wiki, everyday users may create and edit webpages with no previous experience at all and no programming knowledge whatsoever. Programmers using Wiki interfaces have found that this method of "group think" has profound and subtle influences on both the people who communicate and the ideas that are communicated. The best thing is that Wiki Technology is part of the Open Source movement, in that it is free to anyone to use and adapt as they choose.

One application of the Wiki, and by no means the only one, is a recent project of mine and my colleagues, called the WasteFlake Project. The WasteFlake Project combines the intimacy and informality of a conference symposium with the inclusivity of the Internet, linking scholars around the world in both structured and free-form discussion of issues of interest to them. We felt that the Wiki finally gave us an opportunity to foster true collaboration to explore the interface between science and culture.

The WasteFlake Project

In the Wasteflake Project, topics of interest to the community will be chosen, either by fiat or by suggestion. Each topic in WasteFlake will be addressed in invited or contributed Position Papers. Position Papers are papers one might present at a scholarly conference, or private rants; they are unedited and may be as long or as brief as the writer wishes. The use of bibliographies is encouraged but not required; a bibliography of reading material will be assembled for each topic. Contributed papers are welcomed, and will be selected for publication by WasteFlake editors and contributors with the advice of all participants. Brief biographies of the participants are provided.

Free flowing discussion of topics will be permitted through the Wiki. Article submissions and comments on existing articles will be available to anyone willing to agree to so-called Rules of Engagement, basically a civil code that everybody joining the WasteFlake community will be asked to agree to. Current topics of conversation at WasteFlake are the tradeoffs between scientific rigor and accessibility, how to address infinity, copyright issues and the Budapest Initiative, and how to plan to survive the next dark ages with our science intact.

The WasteFlake Manifesto

Wasteflake topics will not be confined to archaeology, although one of the editors is an archaeologist, nor to computer science, although one of the editors is a computer scientist, nor to complexity, although one of the editors is a complicated person. Instead, we seek to discuss the interface between science and culture, in any and all forms that might follow from that. In addition, Position Papers are but one of many styles of contribution we will solicit. We envision fiction, puzzles, games, photographs, drawings, and other media as expressions of the culture/science interface. Contributions need not be polished into a "final" form; indeed, we offer HalfbakedIdeas as a starting point for consideration of various ideas.

My colleagues and I are excited about the opportunities for online collaboration, and believe that Wiki technology can be used in a multitude of different venues for the interactivity that Internet users have always waited for.

Created by KKris. Last Modification: Thursday 09 of October, 2003 22:11:55 EDT by KKris.