The End of Luke’s Wiki

Several months ago, just before I began writing this pseudo-blog, I began experimenting with the wiki format on my courseware website. I wanted to see what writing through that medium would look like, with all of my writing, even abandoned drafts and nonsense pieces, in one place, linked loosely to one another, changing and adapting as I worked with them. It was my hypothesis that this kind of format would allow the different genres, styles, degrees of completion, and individual purposes of my writing to inform each other more fully, so that I might have a better sense of my own practise, my own strengths and weaknesses. I was also hopeful that the ability of the wiki to keep old versions would give me an understanding of my process.

The experiment seemed initially successful. I posted a small number of selections from as wide a variety of my writing as a could, choosing pieces that were short and could be incorporated quickly. I began to link between them in a tentative way, trying to get a sense of what sorts of links would be useful to me as the wiki grew. This initial success continued even once I began writing in the blog format, when I began dumping selected posts into the wiki as well. However, as soon as I began to try and write new material through the wiki, I began to encounter some difficulties.

The very functions that I thought would enable me to understand my writing better actively distracted me when I came to the actual task of writing. I felt overly conscious of the versions of what I was writing, because they too would be available for others to browse, would become part of the work, like a palimpsest, but many layers deep. I also found myself concerned by the kinds of connections that a piece should have to the other texts on the wiki, since it quickly became clear that these too would become part of its literary structure. By making these allusions formal, by forcibly directing them to the readers’ attention, I was privileging them in ways that made me uncertain. It was not that I felt that it was wrong to determine these elements, because writing is always precisely this kind of determination, but I was so unfamiliar with this kind of writing that I was unable to make these choices in an informed way. In short, I spent more time thinking about how the medium was forcing itself onto the writing than I did doing the actual writing.

While these more or less theoretical distractions were certainly interesting, and I do plan to return to some of them in greater detail, I was not getting any writing accomplished. I found that I was drifting back to my old practises just so that I could progress, and I stopped using the wiki at all except to remove spam edits and make an occasional blog update. In any sense related to my writing and thinking it became almost entirely useless. So, I have decided to let the wiki die. I will not delete it entirely, because a fair amount of time and and work went into its creation, and I have learned by too frequent experience that what seems like garbage in the present sometimes finds a purpose for itself in the future. I am, however, putting it into storage, as it were, and I have no immediate plans for it.

Even so, I am more convinced than ever that wiki tools are capable of producing some interesting intellectual and artistic effects in writing. Though I found the medium to be difficult in some ways, and though I do not have the time or the energy to persevere through this difficulty at the moment, there is an opportunity there to do something that is at least novel and perhaps even useful, if any one is so inclined.

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