From the 3rd Congress of the Cybersociety comes: Wikinovela


If the wiki is a definitive collaborative technology, what happens when a group tries to write a multilingual novel using the form? 

[What follows is a commentary on the project involving a bit of translating and paraphrasing of the conference essay “Wikinovela: a project of hypertextual, collaborative, and multilingual creation on the Internet” by Patricia Fernandez Carrelo and Santiago Perez Isasi.]

Produced by the Faculty of Philosophy and Arts of University of Deusto (Bilbao, Spain) under a Creative Commons license, Wikinovela began April 24, 2006 and eneded July 24, 2006.  Over the course of the three-months, the collaborators produced a work that stretches across languages: Castilian, euskara (Basque), and English.  That is not to say that the work has been translated, but that distinct parts of Wikinovela appear in each language.

Participants could modify the text of others, continue any of the on-going storylines, create new plots (or “hypertextual ramifications” of a plot), or add metanarrative commentaries.   

uncyclopedia.jpgThis project stands amongst other creative wiki projects, perhaps most notably the Uncylcopedia, a popular, at times vulgar, humorous collaborative riff on the Wikipedia.  [Note, too, the UnPoetia, the bookshelf for Uncyclopedians distinguished by their love of poetry] However, Wikinovela presents itself as a serious attempt as an attempt at collaborative literary production.

 Interface: Beyond merely following the wiki links throughout the tale and adding pages of their own, readers could access other pathes, such as seeing a list of the pages that link to each entry.  Also, “Pagina Aleatoria” allows readers to pursue a random page in the narrative.  Additonally, using the search bar, the reader-writer can search for content and also go to any page title. Or he or she can check recent changes to the work.  Here, then is a work that demands that it be read a series of versions of itself.

As the Carrelo and Isasi point out, the Castillian storyline offers the most complexity.  In the first paragraph of the first page of the Catillian track, the most developed and most read of the three tales, ”Vidas Prodigiosas” (Prodigious Lives),  almost every word is linked to another page.  Carrelo and Isasi offer this as a sign of the complexity of the piece and a notice that the story does not merely bifurcate. 

 3 beginnings, 3 languages, 3 authors

Castillian: Juan Jose Millás, Vidas prodigiosas

Millás created the central character, Ricardo, the retired widower who lives in Madrid collecting hotels and airplanes.

Euskera: Jon Arretxe, Burdinbidez (”Sobre las vías del tren)

Author of young–adult fiction, writes of a pair of machinists whose train encounters an unknown body.

English: Espido Freire, Time Runs Away

Anna, her solitude, the imminent death of her mother, her relation with her son Tommy, and with her ex-husband Charles. 


To dismay of the essay’s authors, although contributors added texts in all three languages, the stories in the each language do not interlace.  Few words links texts across languages and for the most part the stories stand apart..

 Isasi remarked in the forum:

Creo que lo más importante que hemos visto a través del proyecto de la wikinovela son sus problemas y posibilidades para el futuro. En cuanto a las posibilidades, podemos pensar en la posibilidad no de repetir el experimento, sino de ampliarlo con otro público, otras lenguas, otra difusión, otros medios, etc. En cuanto a los problemas, aparte del Spam o los trolls (que realmente han sido muy minoritarios), el mayor reto es conseguir que los wikiescritores colaboren a través de varias lenguas, y no sólo en una (probablemente, su lengua materna). Eso exige, por supuesto, un tipo de lector-escritor con unas características y una pericia determinadas, y ahí radica probablemente el problema. Pero el lector posmoderno, ya en la “era del papel”, debía ser un escritor plurilingüe para acercarse a textos como los de Pound, Panero…

To paraphrase: Isasi sees the strength of this project as its lessons for the future, particularly with regard to trying to get multilingual integration (a goal we all pursued throughout the Congress).  Isasi claims the postmoddern rader, even in the era of paper (los siglos de ojas), should be multilingual in order to access the multilingual literature.

Seeing how few collaborative multilingual literary projects exist in any form, this result is not particularly surprising.  The Congress moved towards a similar goal but language exchange in conversation about shared texts is a bit less daunting than collaborative multilingual literary creation.   No doubt, as automated translation becomes better and as interaction increases across linguistic boundaries in the world of electronic literature, more interlaced multilingual works will be possible. 

Wikinovela stands as a first attempt, but in no way a failure, on the path towards future collaborations in this medium that is apparently good for more than just a Borgesian Encyclopaedia of Tlön.

Some basics on Wikinovela:

Software platform: Mediawiki (which also runs the Wikipedia)

Patricia Fernandez Carrelo
Santiago Perez Isasi

Joseba Abaitua
Carmen Isasi

Contributors: Over 60 Contributors

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