Wikistan is a global collaborative, multidisciplinary community of research, expertise and communication on Central Eurasia. Led by a consortium of academia, it aims at offering an up-to-date, dynamic and interactive panorama of human, social, economic and political science research on the region.
Central-Eurasian studies have considerably developed since the early 1990s and current regional scholars have at their disposal a wide body of high-quality academic work. For many, however, these studies still remain a periphery of research more than a cradle of innovation. One possible reason of such a perception is that Central Eurasia itself has not really emerged, yet, as a cultural area of its own: its specialists come from Russian, Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern and East-European studies. They belong, too, to disciplines unaccustomed to regular exchange, such as history and political science, endowed with unequal presences on the Web. Moreover, despite the existence of several research units dedicated to part or whole of the region, many scholars remain dispatched in non-specialised institutions and departments. This impedes our access to a comprehensive picture of this special academic landscape.
On this background, and in close connection with present-day efforts by the region’s scholars for coordinating their field, Wikistan contemplates becoming a global collaborative, multidisciplinary community of research, expertise and communication on Central Eurasia. Why a community, instead of a simple network? Because its ambition is to offer scholars combinations of instruments readapted permanently to their bottom-up construction of interconnections, through ranges of common activities. Led by a consortium of academia, Wikistan will accommodate day-to-day contributions from a worldwide array of specialists through critical monitoring and reviewing, critical discussions and interactive participation in thematic forums, proposing a range of services intended for different audiences but easily accessible to all. Closely connected, too, with the development of digital humanities and social sciences, it will turn Central Eurasian studies into a field of technological and philosophical experimentation, potentially relevant for a number of other cultural areas and research fields.
Designed as an instrument of community building, Wikistan’s platform is to be coproduced by its members. Constructed on a modular structure and the principle of agile design, it organises its contents into a hierarchy of meanings and impacts, through a three-floor distribution composed of Data Production, Critical Information and Knowledge Construction. Through this mode of structuration, Wikistan offers an instrument of information, expertise, research and policymaking that is, to date, totally absent from the Web. It suggests, too, economic models for the databased management of research and for the databased organisation of a distinct scientific community – priority being given, in this matter, to participation of researchers, especially of young scholars. Partly inspired by such projects as theconversation.com and wikitribune.com, it incorporates the idea from the world of Wiki that a community of volunteers can reliably protect and improve the construction and the critique of established knowledge.
Considering that Central Eurasian scholars have a strong interest in connecting and cooperating and that the field can thrive principally through transdisciplinary exchange and open discussion, Wikistan rests on the following values:
- Commonality: Going beyond mere lists of adherents, and striving to build up more than yet another network, Wikistan proposes the bottom-up self-construction of a worldwide community of researchers defined, from start, by their participation in common activities.
- Reflexivity: This community’s identity will derive from these very activities and from the effort of reflexivity that it will try to develop – through the day-to-day critical monitoring of ongoing research and through public debates on the place of research in public policies.
- Independence: In a context characterised by overall politicisations of social science research, Wikistan promotes the development of distinct, identifiable disciplines, and open its community to scholars with peer-reviewed publications, or recommended by its members.
- Diversity: The choice of a common language, UK English, must strengthen the visibility, within a common space, of extremely varied academic heritages, disciplines and innovations – notably through our intense review activity of publications in the most diverse idioms.
- Agility: Adopting the IT concept of agility, Wikistan has been designed in order to adjust permanently, in its very structure, to the prerequisites and changing needs of a variety of producers, stakeholders and end-users, and to the possibilities offered by new partnerships.
- Exemplarity: Through this specific mode of development, the platform proposes an economic model for the databased management of research and for the databased self-organisation of a distinct scientific community defined through its critique of established knowledge.