When Writing Program Continuing Lecturer Dr. Jennifer Johnson responded to Charles Bazerman’s call to edit Wikipedia’s WikiProject Writing Studies pages, she thought she’d be doing some light editing on some articles on the global free online encyclopedia - refining a sentence and adding a reference here and there.
Little did Dr. Johnson imagine that a couple of years later she would find herself presenting her research to the entire faculty of the Writing Program at the annual retreat as the recipient of the Bazerman Faculty Fellowship Professional Development in Writing, a competitive, fellowship for Writing Program Continuing Lecturers to complete in-depth research projects related to writing studies and writing pedegogy. This fellowship is supported through a generous gift from Dr. Charles Bazerman, who is committed to supporting UCSB's community of teacher-scholars in the Writing Program.
In her presentation, “What Does it Take to Be a Writing Studies Wikipedian? A Report on My Year of Participation in the CCCC Wikipedia Initiative,” Johnson related how her initial perception of doing a “light edit” changed into the discovery that she had entered an alternate universe: the Land of Wikipedia.
“One thing I thought was cool about Wikipedia are all the ways in,” Johnson noted. “It’s so behemoth, it makes you wonder: Where do I even start? But there are so many ways.”
However, Johnson found that while it was fairly simple to enter the community of Wikipedia users and editors, it was harder to become a true Wikipedian, with the privileges and editing authority the status affords.
“The mentoring, networking, and organizing aspect of the endeavor was much greater than I anticipated,” said Johnson. “The fact that it was so vexing got my researcher wheels turning.”
Bazerman began editing WikiProject Writing pages in 2019, joining the Conference on College Composition and Communication Writing Studies Wikipedia Initiative to develop content and coverage of the field of writing research and pedagogy. Quickly he noted the challenges and barriers-to-entry of editing and developing high-quality articles on the Writing Studies Wiki pages, and put out the call to interested Writing Program faculty.
Johnson came on board and got pulled into the Wiki world. “It was rewarding to work with Chuck to share ideas,” said Johnson. “And to troubleshoot and brainstorm how some of these articles should be added to and modified.”
The Writing Program retreat was the first time faculty had been together in-person for two years.
“It felt like a big deal to present to the entire faculty,” Johnson remarked. “And it was a nice way to report on what has happened up to this point and the ways in which it’s providing areas for additional professional development and research.”
Johnson is continuing her research and presenting at numerous conferences over the next year, including the WikiConference North America; Writing Research Across Borders in Trondheim, Norway; and the Conference on College Composition and Communication, including the Research Network Forum that precedes the CCCC’s.
“This endeavor has opened up a whole new area of scholarship for me,” Johnson said. “It’s exciting to be part of a community that is increasing visibility of the scholarship and expertise of our field.”