ENGL 3347-001 Asian-American Literature Spring 2008
Course Wiki / Knowledge Base Assignment
BACK to the syllabus
OUT to the Wiki
DOWN to some Wiki principles
Your major course project this semester will be a set of contributions to a wiki that will then serve as a knowledge base for the final exam.
Wikis are collaborative projects. They depend on constant correction, elaboration, and refinement from the group at work on them. Ideally, they move constantly to absorb new knowledge, though ours will close somewhat arbitrarily on 30 April 2008, so that I can evaluate your contributions and you can read the "finished" project as a basis for exam preparation.
Each student will be assigned two texts: one adult text and one juvenile text. Each student will give a class presentation on each of those texts, the first in late March/early April, the second in mid-April. Each class presentation will consist of a description of the plot and important literary qualities of the text, some information on the author's career, some indication of how critics and reviewers have assessed the text, and some connections between that texts and others that we've read or heard presentations on. You may, and probably should, use the course wiki to supplement your presentation with visuals. Nothing prevents you from using print handouts, PowerPoint, or the good old blackboard, but nothing requires you to use any of those media, either.
Your wiki contributions will take the form of four pages: one on your adult author, one on your juvenile author, one on your adult text, and one on your juvenile text.
Each author page will include a biography, a bibliography of major works, useful external links, and references (in MLA style) for all works consulted.
Each text page will include a brief description of the text's nature, a plot summary, a synopsis of critical interpretation of the text, and references.
- Wiki entries depend for strength and usefulness on links. Wiki entries are always rich with links, often too rich. But a wiki entry that links nowhere is only of very modest usefulness. You should concentrate on building two kinds of link-systems. One reaches outward, offering external links to resources that provide fuller information on your authors or texts, or gloss important concepts and names in your page. The second system extends within our course wiki to illustrate the connections among authors, themes, texts, publishing histories, collaborations, conflicts, and other details of literary history.
- Wikis – or, at least, this wiki, which emulates Wikipedia – are not about your personal response to literature. The style of an entry should be impersonal. Every fact or opinion should be taken from another source of some kind, either primary or secondary, and those sources must be acknowledged in your References or External Links sections. Direct quotations must be noted and cited.
- Wiki entries must be both informative and concise. There's a balance there that articles on the mother of all Wikis, Wikipedia, strive for but don't always attain. Say what needs saying clearly, but say it in a minimum of words. Aim for a college reading level, but explain unfamiliar terms and concepts (by glossing or using external links) as you go.
- Individual authorship on a wiki is blurry. Each of us has primary responsibility for the pages we've taken on, but each of us is allowed at any time to edit the work of others. Most of this editing will take the form of linking from existing pages back to your own page. For instance, if you recognize the influence of Hisaye Yamamoto on an author or text you discuss, you should absolutely go into my page on Yamamoto and add a link to your page. Part of building an effective wiki page consists of getting people to it from other pages. You should edit the main navigational pages on our wiki so that they lead users to your work.
- Try not to disrupt or mar other authors' work accidentally. (I take for granted that you will not mar their work deliberately.) All work done on a wiki can be undone, and all work done by users leaves a trace. Do not anguish over mistakes. At the same time, anticipate that you will make mistakes, and be ready to fix them. It is often a good idea to compose text for a wiki page in a .txt file using a simple text editor (Notepad, or better still NoteTab Light, which I am using to compose this page). Then you can paste your text into the wiki without fear of typos.
- The Confluence wiki software that UTA has installed in MavWiki is not bug-free. In particular, the text editor sometimes makes automatic assumptions about formatting that can have the effect of defeating the markup code that you have written. Just be patient with it. Confluence is nowhere near as robust a system as the one used by Wikipedia and other major wikis, but it is useful for an intramural project like this one.
- But your project need not stay intramural. If Wikipedia does not have a page, or does not have a good enough page, on any given author or text that you work on for this course, I encourage you to sign up for a Wikipedia user identity, adapt your work, and publish it on Wikipedia. This is not a course requirement, but it will bring you a great deal of satisfaction to see your work installed in such a high-profile reference source.
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