I’m co-hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on my campus in conjunction with a week-long event called “G-Week” (or Gender Week).
The post below has been re-blogged from my department’s website. I wrote it to publicize and explain the event. Before I share the post, I’d like to pause to say:
As a newbie to the editing side of Wikipedia, I’m indebted to the pathbreaking work of my graduate school colleague Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz. I’d venture to say that one my co-organizers, Dr. Mica Hilson, who was a dear friend of Adrianne’s from graduate school, also feels the same way. Adrianne passed away last year following injuries sustained during a rock climbing accident.
Adrianne was a prolific Wikipedian and worked tirelessly to combat the site’s notorious gender gap. She also championed Wikipedia in the college classroom. It was her Wikipedia copyediting assignment that first got me thinking about how I could use Wikipedia to improve students’ writing, research, and digital literacy skills in my composition and professional writing classes.
FMU will host a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon on March 11 from 12-5 PM in the Rogers Library. The event is part of FMU’s “G-Week” or “Gender Week,” which is aimed at getting the campus thinking (and talking) productively about gender and sexuality–in all their expressions.
The goal of the edit-a-thon is to increase the presence and participation of women and GLBTQ on Wikipedia, one of the world’s most visited websites.
Attendees will write, edit, index, and/or add references to Wikipedia articles about issues associated with women and GLBTQ, especially those related to South Carolina and racial and ethnic minorities.
The edit-a-thon is open the FMU community; no prior Wikipedia writing or editing experience is necessary to participate. However, attendees must register for the event and get a Wikipedia account in advance.
Wikipedia’s lack of diversity is well-documented. Women make up only 8-16% of Wikipedia contributors to the site according to various estimates. Some have argued that this gender gap creates a coverage gap on the site: entries tend to focus on men or stereotypically masculine topics. Wikipedia’s race- and sexuality-gaps are even more pronounced than its gender gap.
Wikipedia’s gender gap is improving. A recent study has shown that the English-language Wikipedia has roughly the same number of entries about women as it does about men. The entries about women, though, tend to focus more on their family, children (or lack thereof), and relationship status.
The FMU edit-a-thon is part of a larger, international effort that Wikipedia itself supports. Subjects on the site should be represented accurately, objectively, and evenly. As professors Sarah Adams (Yale) and Hannah Brückner (NYU of Abu Dhabi) explain, given the sheer volume of traffic to the site, Wikipedia is perhaps the “most important reference tool and information clearinghouse” in the world. Moreover, Adams and Brückner point out that “[Wikipedia] is widely used in American and other countries’ secondary schools and universities. It is an important go-to site for many students who are trying to learn about topics that are new to them.”
FMU English Studies professors are well aware that students of all ages consult Wikipedia when completing research projects. Composition classes like English 200 often ask students to compose a research-based, argumentative essay. During these assignments, professors help students evaluate the objectivity and credibility of sources. Wikipedia often does not qualify as an appropriate source for many types of college-level academic writing, including English 200 essays. However, many professors teaching college composition endorse consulting Wikipedia during the initial research stage. During this part of the process, the researcher seeks a broad overview of his subject as well as keywords that relate to it. She then uses this information to conduct more targeted, informed research using library-based resources, such as peer-reviewed journal articles and books.
Ultimately, increasing the presence and participation of women and GLBTQ on Wikipedia will create a more objective, complete resource that is popular the world over. Adams and Brückner say it best: “Knowledge is power, as the adage has it, and a well-informed citizenry is the basis of a vibrant economy and strong democracy.”
If you’re in the FMU community and have questions about the event, email co-organizers Dr. Mica Hilson and Dr. Amy Rubens of FMU English Studies or public services librarian Ms. Tammy Ivins, MSLS.
Note: The organizers are indebted to the pioneering work of scholar and prolific Wikipedian Dr. Adrianne Wadewitz. Dr. Wadewitz passed away following a rock climbing accident last year. Learn more about Dr. Wadewtiz and her work with Wikipedia, especially on college campuses.