Wikis as Communities of Practice

When I've spoken about the advantages of Wikis in the past, I pointed out the benefit of having organizational/cultural knowledge documentation be very "close" with actual practice. Programmers are familiar with this issue in the form of their code being synchronized (or more likely not) with its documentation. An advantage of having high level languages like Python is that code and documentation almost merge. The Web (Wikis) can do the same for an organization. The W3C was a good place to work for this very reason, and every other place I've been has frustrated me for this reason: to do anything one must wade through contradictory and outdated documentation and forms and speak to a handful of people before getting something close to authoritative. And then I lament to myself, if this was only on a Wiki!

This week I've been reading up on Communities of Practice (Wenger 1998cpl) again and find that the concept "duality of meaning" reflects my concern. In Wenger's terms, sometimes practice and reification of that practice into artifacts are at odds. I think Wikis have the ability to draw a closer convergence between the two:

Participation and reification are a duality, not opposites: they interact, they do not define a spectrum; they imply each other rather than substitute for each other; they transform the relationship rather than translating each other; they describe an interplay rather than classifications. (Wenger 1998cpl:66-68)

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