Not Wicked

I’ve charged myself with setting up a Wiki site for Interactive Arts at MMU. For sometime the course has had a forum online but in the last two years its usage has bottomed out and it is rarely used by anybody, which has rendered it basically useless.

Initially – spurred on by my own admiration for Wikipedia in particular, but also the hundreds of other Wikis that I use day-to-day for all manner of things – it seemed that setting up a Wiki for all the Interactive Arts students/staff/graduates to use would be a great idea. I got to the point of having the Wiki up, installed, and running before I actually asked myself the question Why a Wiki?

What does using Wiki software offer that the forum doesn’t? Of course it offers complete flexibility, it puts control of the structure and content of the website into the hands of its users, probably the most valuable single resource of the whole world wide web is the archetypal Wiki (I mean Wikipedia), as far as browser-based content management for the masses goes Wikis are almost “in vogue”. But, apart from being a useful buzz word and fashionable, artists generally don’t want those features unique to Wikis. Sure we like the idea, but when it comes down to it we’re just like other most other end users; we just want it to work. Although by no means impossible to learn, the skills required to effectively setup and use Wiki software probably have a prohibitively steep learning curve for the purposes of Interactive Arts.

But why doesn’t the forum work? I suppose one aspect is that it isn’t very exciting. Also the particular forum that is installed is a fairly dated one, no fancy AJAX programming. Its all a bit clunky. I think the main issue is that there needs to be someone in house looking after any such web system and actively stimulating people to use it, that could either be by adding useful content or providing some kind of other incentive for using it.

I’m extremely challenged by these questions! In my commercial career, systems analysis was something I did, however there was always a clear brief of requirements- something that is lacking here. Maybe the best way forward would be to ask for one to be written and then work from that?