Models and Theories in Human-Computer Interaction/WikiBooks and Social Interaction on the Web

WikiBooks is just one example of the numerous “wiki” sites that have popped up online. Regardless of the generic or specific focus, wikis are setup to be a collaborative, living collection of documents. Since all contributors can add, edit and delete, each entry becomes amalgamation of different users’ thoughts and knowledge. At best, wikis do encourage human-to-human interaction using said wiki to mediate the potential hurdles of culture and background with the end result being an extensive entry. The activity theory and wikis go hand in hand. Each wiki entry (the object) has been built and modified by numerous users (the subjects) whose thoughts, ideas and understandings of the topic are heavily influenced by every aspect of their backgrounds (the communities) - cultural, socioeconomic, educational and religious. It is understood that the inclusion ensures the conversation continues and the result will be well-rounded.

While wikis do encourage interaction, they also have some shortcomings. Unlike the redesign approach in the CPN2000 example described by Carroll (2003) which had specific people from a variety of specific backgrounds work together, there are few, if any, restrictions on contributors to wiki entries. While the up-side is that it ensures open collaboration, it also means that inaccurate ideas can be added and presented as fact. This laxness could end up deterring knowledgeable users from contributing or limit the scope of both contributors and consumers thereby failing to expand the conversation.

As long as the editors or “owners” of the wiki acknowledge the potential challenges, wikis are prime examples of web artifacts that embody social/group interaction online.

Carroll, J.M. (2003). HCI Models, Theories and Frameworks. San Francisco: Morgan-Kaufmann Publishers.