J-School: Educating Independent Journalists

“If tools could make anyone who picked them up an expert, they’d be valuable indeed.” Plato, The Republic

Using PBwiki as a Way to Create a Living Dissertation

Posted by chanders on December 16, 2008

I recently just started a PBwiki, http://networkingthenews.pbwiki.com/, as an experiment in creating a “living dissertation.” Nobody reading this can read the wiki, except for the front page, until and unless I give them permission (see the logic of this below). But here’s the introductory page that tries to explain my thought process:

The Rationale for this PBwiki

This is my dissertation, provisionally entitled Networking the News: Work, Knowledge and Occupational Authority in the New Metropolitan Journalism.

I’ve been experimenting with different ways of getting subject feedback, including sending out emails with different sections of chapters attached, and keeping a blog. So far, though, actual feedback has been minimal, although the blog has been a useful way to engage with my academic peers. I thought I would try posting rough drafts here, on a password protected pbwiki, and invite relevant people to contribute to the wiki and add feedback.

If this mini-experiment is successful, I thought this might be a good way to eventually “self-publish” the dissertation in a way that made sense, and didn’t undermine its validity as a document that was eventually publishable by a traditional academic publisher (still the currency of success in academia). Basically, the document would be subject to increasing levels of “openness”– first, I would open it to the subjects of the research, then, open it to the relevant, interested peer-communities (members of the Philly NORGS group, for instance). Finally, at some point, it would be open to everyone, and would hopefully serve as a “living document,” capable of being added to or modified, theoretically forever.

The bottom line is this: I’m studying the news industry, which is changing (some might say disintegrating) faster than can be documented using normal “academic” procedures. And I’m not willing to wait around for my book to get published in order to share what I want to share.

Here’s an example of what I mean: I just finished a large chunk of Chapter Two, which I want to give the people I interviewed a chance to provide feedback on. Once I post a draft of the section of the chapter, I’ll send email invitations to everyone who I think should provide feedback. Over time, this level of access will gradually expand.

What do people think about this experiment? I’d be curious to know if anyone in the blogosphere has tried anything similar.

One Response to “Using PBwiki as a Way to Create a Living Dissertation”

  1. […] Using PBwiki as a Way to Create a Living Dissertation Chris Anderson is wiki-izing his dissertation. Interesting approach. (tags: wikis journalism dissertation) […]

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