Saturday, September 02, 2006

Should anyone write a Wiki textbook on Mechanics of Materials ?

Here is an article on Wiki-style textbook in general.

My question is: Can we do something to help students in developing countries get free textbooks on applied mechanics ? Should NSF support such effort ?


At 9/02/2006 1:31 PM, Blogger Zhigang Suo said...

The structure of wiki software like MediaWiki may be unsuitable for textbooks in mechanics. The structure seems to be too flat. The ongoing WikiBook project does not seem to do very well. You can get some sense of the issues by looking at the WikiBook on Solid Mechanics. If any one knows more sophisticated wikibook in our field, please post a link as a comment.

On the other hand, more complicated software structure may set up even a higher bar for academics to start to use it.

Of course, there is also issues such as, who has time for it, and why should I do it. A recent book, The Wealth of Network, begins to answer these questions by analyzing the economics of peer production.

On the practical side, I find the approach of GEM4 interesting. The organizers simply uploaded the course notes on to an existing website powered by MediaWiki. This way, at least interested people can read the content, even though the materials are not easily improved by others.

Another interesting case is Connexion. It treats knowledge as commodities. The software is not a standard wiki, but it does enable large scale collaboration. It can even support print on demand.

The issues run deep, the opportunities are huge, and the risk for researchers to explore this is high. I've collected several previous entries in AMN on these issues as a link roll, and hope to stimulate more people to step in to explore possible benefit of peer production for Applied Mechanics.

At 9/06/2006 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A slashdot article on free text books.


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