Multimedia Projects: A Blog/Wiki Mashup

This semester professor Mara Scanlon and I decided at the very last minute to experiment a bit with the multimedia projects she had assigned the students in her Contemporary Poetry and Asian American Literature courses.

Here is the multimedia project description for the Contemporary Poetry class:

Collaborative Multimedia Report on Poetic Movements
For this assignment, you will work in groups of about three, which will be established within the first weeks of class. Each group will be charged with becoming our resident experts on a certain contemporary poetic movement, using outside resources (poetry, websites, manifestos and essays by participants, histories of literature, criticism, appropriate cultural or sociopolitical background, perhaps bios of major figures, etc.). I strongly encourage you to focus less on the biographies of individual poets, except where the information is germane, and more on the poetry and aesthetic values of the group and the cultural/artistic contexts for their work.

Rather than being submitted in traditional paper format, the projects will be posted to the class blog. The purpose here is twofold: to make the information easily available to all classmates in the spirit of collaborative learning, and to make use of the blog’s multimedia capabilities. Though the reports will include substantial (about 1000 words) explanatory text, they must also use images, video, audio, links, or other methods to enrich and support the traditional scholarship. College-level, appropriate research is the heart of your project.

So that’s the assignment, but as Mara and I were talking about this assignment in the 12th hour it occurred to us that doing collaborative projects like this in the course blog is a pain in the ass. Having many authors on a blog page or post is really not that convenient. Being pushed by Brian Lamb’s post about the Wiki not being dead yet, suggested we try to run these projects in the UMW Wiki, which is a MediaWiki isntallation that is running alongside UMW Blogs, and thanks to the CUNY Academic Commons and Cast Iron Coding, all UMW Blogs users are immediately authenticated to edit the UMW Wiki—I love me some CUNY. Give that, we figured having students edit their multimedia projects in the UMW Wiki would be a cinch in terms of headache and overhead—and that generally proved true.

What’s more, creating a new article in the UMW Wiki is as easy as wrapping any word or phrase in double square brackets like so:

A leftover from some earlier experiments Patrick Murray-John, Andy Rush, and I did with the “bliki” in 2007 (you can find the hacked plugin in the post I linked to).

What’s more, the UBC plugin Wiki Append allows us to pull the various multimedia projects created in the UMW Wiki directly into a blog page or post. The bliki has been here for years, it just took me that long to get over my blog crush. So, in short, some of the coolest projects I’ve seen this semester on UMW Blogs have been utilizing MediaWiki as a collaborative tool and the blog as an attractive and coherent way to present it.

Check out the projects on the Black Mountain Poets or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry which are awesome, and then look at their corresponding pages in the UMW Wiki: Black Mountain poets and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Poetry. This is a really powerful way to work in terms of collaboration for a few reasons: 1) organizing information for a project like this is easier in a wiki than a blog, 2) collaboration is much easier on a wiki, and 3) the history feature of MediaWiki gives Scanlon a solid idea of who did what when. What’s more, we can incorporate/embed all the same media in MediaWiki as we can in WordPress and thanks to Wiki Append it can pull into a blog page or post seamlessly. One of the drawbacks that Chris Lott pointed out—and he’s right—is that you can’t search the MediaWiki article from the blog search field. We need a way to deal with this, and I’m sure the crack crew at UBC is working on this (or some other force of open source nature), because they have been building out their Resource Management Framework for a while now, and I am convinced it’s the way forward with all these “loosely joined” publishing technologies in an institutional setting.

Anyway, loved getting re-acquianted with the wiki this semester, and this project became the basis of a few more we did across a number of classes, but I’ll save that for a later post.

This entry was posted in blogging, mashup, mediawiki, UMW Blogs, WordPress, wpmu and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Multimedia Projects: A Blog/Wiki Mashup

  1. Prof Hanley says:

    Great project! Beautiful wiki pages . . . committing intellectual property theft as I type.

  2. Scott Leslie says:

    re: search, probably lots of ways to do it. Simplest might be a google coop engine across both sites. But running your own search engine locally might give you more flexibility. There may be some joy in looking intp the built-in search and seeing if it can’t be extended across the mediawiki db/tables too.

  3. Jim Groom says:

    @Prof Hanley,

    This is nothing after seeing your Autotune the Whitman, I still have to blog that beautiful thing.

    We kinda use Google search on the frontpage of UMW Blogs, and that is mainly cause the WordPress search sucks so bad. I’m not sure the MediaWiki search is any better—so setting up a Google coop search makes sense—though I am trying to keep UMW Blogs add free, and if this becomes common enough a practice I would rather it built-in. I’m not sure, I thing the db/tables built-in search appeals to me aesthetically and ideologically and what I would ultimately opt for, but wonder if it isn’t compromising some real powerful search possibilities through Google. I mean it is kind of hypocritical to say I don;t want to use google search for bridging these sites when we both know Google’s search is what makes UMW Blogs so prominent,m hell it is what makes Web 2.0 so powerful. You can’t live a wrong life rightly, right?

    How did you do it on Free Learning, that is an important model for this.

    As is your idea about annotating Wikipedia here:

    Which really builds the larger point that Mara and I had talked about before, how can we use this as a way to push more and more of these resources to Wikipedia, or at least make the next part of these assignments additions the class plans on making to Wikipedia. That is what is missing in this assignment for me, and that is the next step.

    That said, Mara Scanlon has already done a Wikipedia experiment wherein her Long poem class created the Long poem page on Wikipedia, the difference is the started the article on their own mediawiki install, than moved it there when it was “done.” A different model than Jon Beasley-Murray’s but one that starts to push more of this there, and then we really don;t have to worry about the search, google and Wikipedia will take care of tht for us 🙂

  4. Scott Leslie says:

    Hey Jim, freelearning uses a Google Coop engine that is dynamically powered by a delicious feed. The real trick is using their “linked CSE tools” ( which transform on the fly a RSS feed into a Google CSE formatted file. At least that’s how we do it. You could simply create a CSE that indexed only the two sites, the blog server and mediaiwiki server. If you don’t want the entire domain indexed but can isolate the content into feeds, then the RSS->CSE trick is a good hack.

    Really glad the “annotating wikipedia” idea resonates for you, it is one of my favourites and the more I think about it the more I think it is a real winner. The trick is in implementation of course, how to do it in such a way that it is easily available to people but ideally (in my mind at least) doesn’t actually need to get overly involved with mediawiki/the wikipedia foundation. Not that they are bad, not at all, just that it would be good if it was “loosely coupled” and I think their URL space allows for that. It is probably the one thing I would focus on had I the time.

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