Women, Wikipedia, and Intentional Editing


Art+Feminism Buttons, Emily Carr University of Art and Design Library, March 2016. Photo by Hillarywebb. CC-BY-SA 4.0

I’ve written previously about my use of Wikipedia as an outreach tool for the GLAM sector and the possibilities of connecting archives to users through Wikipedia.  I’ve also been thinking a lot about using Wikipedia as a form of awareness raising about Indigenous history, marginalized communities, and women. Many people have written about the systemic under representation of women and minorities on Wikipedia. Given that today is International Women’s Day I wanted to talk a bit about women, Wikipedia, and my personal approach to editing.

There are a handful of really great initiatives that encourage focused editing to increase female representation on Wikipedia.  For example, the WikiProject Women in Red initiative aims to turn red links (names/topics without Wiki pages) into blue links. The Women In Red initiative focuses on women’s biographies and works by women and hosts theme months where they focus on specific subsets such as women in science, Indigenous women, women in academia etc.  The project has some resources for new editors and an ongoing work list if you’re interested in contributing.

My other favourite women’s oriented Wikipedia project is the Art+Feminism initiative. Art+Feminism aims to encourage more women to be engaged in editing and to increase and improve content relating to feminism and the arts.  Art+Feminism has a ton of great resources (including a really well done video series) that can be used to introduce new editors to the basics of Wikipedia.  The project page also has a lot of advice on hosting an edit-a-thon and for community based organizers.  I used a lot of these resources when thinking about organizing the first edit-a-thon on campus in 2016.

Personally, I’ve being trying to be more thoughtful about what pages I create and contribute to.  Wikipedia can be a huge rabbit whole and for someone who has a desire to ‘fix all the things’ I can sometimes unintentionally spend hours editing. But my time is finite and I want my edits to be meaningful.  I’ve actively being trying to contribute to and create pages that relate to Indigenous communities and more specifically to Indigenous women.

Specifically, I’ve been working on cleaning up the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women page which still needs a substantial amount of work (Read: please contribute!).  Similarly, I’ve also being contributing to the Walking With Our Sisters page, and the Aboriginal Healing Foundation page. In terms of biography pages I’ve recently tried to focused my edits on the Indigenous women who have inspired me and who’s academic work has been essential to me rethinking my approaches to scholarship and relationship building.  These women matter. They are doing hugely important work that deserves to be acknowledge. Some of the pages I’ve worked on so far have included Christi BelcourtShirley Fletcher Horn, Gail Guthrie Valaskakis, Madeline Dion Stout, Eve Tuck and others.  I’ve also started to think about how I can contribute to pages related to queer*, trans, non-binary, and 2spirt folks as these are communities which are also vastly underrepresented on Wikipedia.

#1Lib1Ref Initiative

The #1Lib1Ref (One Librarian, One Reference) initiative is running January 15 – February 3, 2017.  The project targets librarians and information professionals and encourages them to engage with Wikipedia by improving citations and adding citations to existing pages.  The skills required to add citations draw on a lot of the research and reference skills that librarians excel at and adding a citation is an easy way to start editing Wikipedia.

Earlier this month via Arcan-L Danielle Robichaud reminded the Canadian archival community that archivists have similar skills and resources which can be used to contribute to the #1Lib1Ref initative.  Danielle suggested that archivists include citations from:

  • reference resources held in your reading room that are not currently available online; [i]
  • historical newspapers you have on hand in clippings files, on microfilm/fiche or as part of paid subscriptions;[ii]
  • print resources that your organization has digitized and have made available online or through the Internet Archive; [iii]
  • digital versions of finding aids, news features or journal articles that pertain to the topic at hand that have not been used elsewhere in the page.

I whole heatedly agree with Danielle and would encourage both librarians and archivists to become involved.  I have been working away at contributing citations to Wikipedia pages relating to residential schools, Indigenous activists, and members of the Children of Shingwauk Alumni Association.

New to Wikipedia and unsure where to start? The #1Lib1Ref page has a basic outline of the steps required to add a citation using either the visual editor or source editor in Wikipedia. You can also check out the visual editor guide or the short introduction tutorial. More importantly I would just suggest diving in and trying things out.  Citations are a really easy way to improve Wikipedia and the learning curve is relatively easy, even if you have never edited a page before.

On a citation spree and want to get folks at your place of work or a group of information professionals involved? There’s a “Coffee Kit” page that provides guidelines for organizing an event around #1Lib1Ref.  There are also lots of other suggestions of other ways to engage your library/archive with the wider Wikipedia community.

[i] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edna_Haviland#cite_note-Russell-1

Rewriting Wikipedia and Skill Building

220px-We_Can_EditYesterday the Shingwauk Residential Schools Centre held it’s first “Rewriting Wikipedia” event aimed at increasing content relating to Indigenous Women on Wikipedia.  I’m really happy with how this event turned out.  We had about ten participants of varying skill levels and the afternoon was filled with good conversation, ideas, and skill building.  Many of the people at the event hadn’t edited Wikipedia before so this was an opportunity to talk about why editing is important and what can be gained by contributing.  It was also simply a good outreach event highlighting the range of work that happens in an archive.

I also learned some new things during the session. I tend to primarily use the source editor on Wikipedia but many of the event participants were more comfortable using the visual editor.  Working with them and the visual editor gave me a better understanding of the intricacies of using the visual editor for article templates and citations.  In between helping people I also spent some time working on a Wikipedia page for Chris Derksen who is an amazing two-spirited Indigenous artist.

We have plans to hold another Rewriting Wikipedia event in the fall, possibly focused on a different topic.  We might also run a how-to workshop beforehand open to those who want to learn more before participating in the edit-a-thon.  That way there can be a more focused emphasis on skill building in addition to generating content. I’m excited by the range of possibilities that exist with this type of event and the possibilities for grassroots community based history on Wikipedia.

Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector

My most recent post “Digital Outreach and Wikipedia in the GLAM Sector” can be seen over on Activehistory.ca.  This post looks at why Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) might engage in Wikipedia editing and different possibilities for GLAM organizations interested in editing Wikipedia as a form of outreach.