Open Source Dissertation?

I’m just starting to write my dissertation for Utrecht University.

This will make my PhD official, give me the chance to teach in a respectable institution when I get older, and make for a nice addition to the text beneath my picture when I go on tv. Seriously, though, the dissertation (tentatively entitled “New Media, New Literacies”), will look at the core issues behind what I’ve been studying and writing about for the past ten years. Basically, it’s about the way new media (from text to computers) change our fundamental relationship to the human story.

The recent hubub about Wikipedia makes my thesis – that our current media are more biased towards collaboration than sole authorship – all the more relevant. I’m also trying to prove that the biases of our collaborative media extend to everything else we do, as well, from the creation of value to the creation of currency.

That’s why I’m wondering if there’s a way to turn the dissertation, itself, into something of a collaborative project. A Wiki, if you will, where I take input from everyone who is interested, and offer full credit as well as whatever the “gift economy” we’re in allows.

The dissertation thus *proves* itself by its very existence – and ends up challenging the values of the cultural institution underwriting its legitimacy. What say you? For those of you who think it’s an easy way out, believe me: It’s harder in many ways to corral a public of writers (and then check their work) than to simply sit and write something oneself. I’m really thinking of it more as a proof of concept than a cheat.

What I’d do is create a Wiki (with password membership), put the entire outline on it, and then see who might want to flesh out and/or change what. We could have boards for discussion, and – I’ll check with the MaybeLogic and CEIS people about this – perhaps even be able to offer college credit for participation, again hacking the academic value system and actually doing something to inspire collaborative learning rather than some top-down distribution of “information.”

Anybody interested in such a thing, or are we all too busy?

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