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  • The case for and against a wiki PhD
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Does the medium fit the message?

"The medium is the message" (McLuhan 1987 p.7) . McLuhan's infamous aphorism has been used and abused by many authors since its inception in the late 1960s. For me, the debate at the heart of McLuhan's quote relates not only to how an idea is affected by the form of its communication but about whether the quality and validity of an idea can survive presentation in certain forms but not others.
Academic modes of production have a long and well developed history (Clark 2008) and for many 'messages' - scientific data, linear arguments - the established formats (papers, books, essays, reports, theses) remain the most suitable media available.

What then is the most suitable format for this project? If one considers the The Meso-what? project#expected outcomes they suggest that 'much of the research will consider and experiment with different ways of communicating research, including innovative methods and modern technology'. This is referring to innovative means to present the Mesolithic to a non-specialist audience (through multimedia, interaction, art, social media and so on) and this is considered an academic outcome. The means by which the content is presented is not stipulated: though the content is on the topic of content presentation.
The fundamental message of the project identifying and implementing best practice for improving public understanding of the Mesolithic would, in my opinion, be most effective if produced in a self-exemplifying medium: one that practised what it preached. This would necessitate accessibility to all, usability for multiple audiences (museum professionals, Mesolithic specialists, archaeologists and more) and innovation all in addition to high-quality reasoning and the breadth and depth necessary for a PhD.

If this information was presented in a traditional thesis (deposited in the university library and with the British Library's EThOS service) it would severely limit it's potential impact. Even setting the accessibility issues aside (as these are not format) such a document would provide a far less usable information resource than a linked wiki that facilitates the interlinking between relate

Is it a 'proper wiki?

Stuff from Cornelius Holtorf:


Borgman, C. L. 2007. Scholarship in the digital age: information, infrastructure, and the Internet. MIT Press.



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