Happy Birthday Wikipedia

Guest post by Hannah Rothmann, Classics undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh. This is a transcript of what she said at Wikipedia’s 20th birthday event on Friday 15th January 2021.

Hannah Rothmann, Classics undergraduate, and Wikimedia Training Intern last Summer at the University of Edinburgh.
Hannah Rothmann, Classics undergraduate, and Wikimedia Training Intern last Summer at the University of Edinburgh.

Hi everyone, my name is Hannah. I am currently in my fourth and final year studying Classics at the University of Edinburgh. Last summer, I was the Wikimedia Training Intern at the University. Over the course of my internship, with my university’s Wikimedian in Residence Ewan McAndrew, I helped to created training materials for Wikipedia, Wikidata and a website to host them. I contacted other Wikimedians across the UK and included their work on the website. We wanted to make a platform which collated new resources and all the impressive ones already out there. This in part was to help stop people going down a rabbit-hole of blue links… something I am sure all of you are familiar with.

 

Before starting my internship, I did not know much about Wikipedia and its sister projects. I had obviously used Wikipedia; to settle arguments, as a springboard for research and as a helping hand in some difficult pub quizzes. However, I had never actually edited it myself. Embarrassingly, I had also not given much thought to where all this information I was using came from, how it was maintained and what prompted people to edit. My attitude to Wikipedia was also affected by those around me. From school through to the start of my degree, I have been warned away from Wikipedia many times. My teachers and lecturers have told me it is untrustworthy, not academic enough and must be avoided at all costs. One lecturer even told us that as Wikipedia could be edited by anyone, this was proof enough to avoid it. Despite these warnings, myself and the majority of the students I know use Wikipedia in some form. Therefore, universities and education systems need to acknowledge that Wikipedia plays an instrumental role for many students in their learning and they need to recognise that it is not this big, bad wolf leading their students astray.

 

The University of Edinburgh is aware of this demonstrated by the fact it was the first university in the UK to employ a university-wide Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. Wikimedians in Residence tend, or tended, to be situated in galleries, libraries, archives and museums. Many still think about Wikipedia as a way of sharing library collections and are wary of the dangers of consuming Wikipedia rather than what we can gain from a teaching and learning perspective through contributing. The residency at Edinburgh is geared to support sharing knowledge openly and developing information literacy and digital skills. A focus of the residency is also on supporting equality and diversity through improving representation online and increasing the diversity of editors. This, along with a desire to make Wikipedia more transparent to the university community, drove the creation of our website.

 

We decided to focus our efforts on Wikipedia, Wikidata and the ways that people can continue to contribute to the sites after their initial tentative steps into the world of Wiki. Our first goal was to explain to people, especially students and staff, why they should become involved with Wikipedia and Wikidata. My own journey, from being strongly warned away from Wikipedia to actively contributing to it helped me to contextualise this for people. Explaining what Wikipedia is, something which to many is apparent, was crucial to explain why people should edit it. I think many do not realise that the goal of Wikipedia is to be the sum of all human knowledge and that people need to contribute to it for it to come even slightly near this impossible but noble goal. More importantly, the fact that anyone can edit Wikipedia is a positive and not a negative, as my anti-Wikipedia lecturer suggested. It is incredible that people across the world and from different backgrounds can contribute to a singular platform.

 

An idea of knowledge activism, as opposed to passive consumption, is inherent in the goal to get more people to contribute. Within universities, many staff and students are in excellent positions to contribute, improve and edit articles on Wikipedia. They can access resources, they have specific subject expertise and, with some persuasion, a desire to improve Wikipedia. This could mean that they could be valuable editors and empowered knowledge activists.  Subsections of our website include how to create an account (crucial for any Wiki editing), how to edit, guidance around what you should be contributing, how to make an article, how to cite Wikipedia and how to teach with Wikipedia.

 

The part on teaching with Wikipedia was crucial to make as several University courses now include Wikipedia editing. It was through this that my sister was won over to the world of Wiki. She took the Stars, Robots and Talismans honours course run by Glaire Anderson at the University who put editing Wikipedia at the centre of her course. My sister, and others on her course, had their perceptions of Wikipedia challenged. They had to confront their idea of Wikipedia as a place that is not intellectual and not trustworthy when they themselves were contributing their own research. Their change in attitude shows me that with training and an explanation of what Wikipedia is really about, people can learn to appreciate a platform many take for granted. Hopefully, students soon will be able to receive an award, the Edinburgh Award, by undertaking 50 hours of wiki editing from October to April to improve, individually or in groups, whole areas of Wikipedia such as Scotland’s links with slavery, Women in STEM, Translation work and more.

 

Our website also has a section on how to contribute to Wikipedia once people feel ready to start editing. Edit-a-thons are a way to do this. As many of you know, this is an event where people come together to edit and create articles around a particular topic. Generally, it is also to address the biases on Wikipedia. I had never heard of these events before my internship and this is a shame considering how it is an easy way to try, in your own small way, to create some social justice.

 

It is this aspect of Wikipedia and those who edit it that exemplifies everything good about the internet. It is astounding that Wikipedia has been with us for 20 years and in the current political climate, we can all do with some accessible, non-partisan and free knowledge.

New website on the Wikimedia residency

  • New 41 webpage site created by Hannah Rothmann, student intern, on University of Edinburgh’s Digital Skills site.
  • Includes the following videos she created:
  1. How to create an account on Wikipedia.
  2. How to enable the visual editor on Wikipedia
  3. How to create a user page on Wikipedia
  4. How to make your own Wikipedia article.
  5. Exploring the Wikipedia main page
  6. How to format your Wikipedia article – adding bolds, headings, links and italics.
  7. How to add a citation on Wikipedia
  8. How to move your article into the live space.
  9. How to upload an image onto Wikimedia Commons.
  10. How to use an image from Wikimedia Commons on Wikipedia.
  11. How to add a heading for references.
  12. How to edit Wikipedia – a 1 hour tutorial
  13. A brief introduction to Wikidata and how to create an account.
  14. How to use the Wikidata Query Service – Mapping the Scottish Reformation’s Dr. Chris Langley
  15. How to use QuickStatements – a tool to bulk upload data onto Wikidata. By Dr. Sara Thomas
  16. How to add a new item to Wikidata.
  17. How to add an image to Wikidata.
  18. Wiki Loves Monuments

Reflections on the Edinburgh Award – Presentation by Wikimedia Training Intern, Hannah Rothmann on the Summer 2020 project

Final interview with Wikimedia intern, Hannah Rothmann – This video interview was recorded on 11 September 2020.

Scotland Loves Monuments 2020

Get involved in Wiki Loves Monuments!

Glasgow City Chambers stairwell, by Stinglehammer CC-BY-SA 4.0 and the 2018 Wiki Loves Monument upload stats
Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo competition which takes part throughout the month of September every year, and is supported by the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation.
You can see historic locations near you that are missing an image using our handy interactive map (red pins are locations without an open image).
The aim is to crowdsource as many high quality, openly licensed photos as possible of scheduled monuments and listed buildings throughout the world. Why? Because documenting our cultural heritage today is so important.
In the UK, there will be prizes for the best photos of a site in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as prizes for the best UK photos overall. The latter will then be put forward for international prizes and there are some phenomenal pics from last year’s competition worldwide like this one of the lookout in Ayyoob Cave located on top of Ayyoob Mountain, Shahr-e Babak, Kerman, Iran:
Ayyoub’s (Job’s) Cave, Iran by Morteza Salehi, CC-BY-SA 4.0

Why take part?

Portobello and Wikipedia – Great 8 min podcast featuring University of Edinburgh Digital Curator Gavin Willshaw and Dr Margaret Munro of the Portobello Heritage Society discussing the importance of surfacing local heritage online.
Portobello beach by Photochrom Print Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
Wikimedia Commons is a free repository of photographs, audio and video content that anyone can use, re-use or distribute. Images on Commons can also be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles – which can then be seen by a global audience.  But not all of our rich heritage is represented – there are a number of gaps when it comes to the coverage of Scotland – and this year, we’d like to do what we can to change that. Especially when this is something fun, impactful and socially-distanced we can all do.
Is your organisation or group looking for activities?  Wiki Loves Monuments can be a great activity for local social or volunteer groups, not just those those concerned with photography or history.  Why not organise a heritage walk to take pictures of listed buildings in the local area, and visit the local museum or library at the same time?
Collage of Wiki Loves Monuments pics by Stinglehammer, CC-BY-SA 4.0, taken during Glasgow Doors Open Day.

How do you take part?

Register for an account on Wikimedia Commons. (Individuals only, no organisational accounts.) If you already have a Wikipedia account, no need to register for a new account on Wikimedia Commons, you can use the same account for Wikimedia Commons. To enter the competition you must make sure that your account has a valid email address and that your email is activated. To check that, once you have logged in, look for “My preferences” tab at the top right of the page. Click on it, and then select “enable email from other users.”  This will allow the competition organisers and other registered users on Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons to contact you but will not make your email address publicly available.
Wiki Loves Monuments – dynamic map of Edinburgh showing listed buildings requiring an image (in red).

What should you photograph? How do you upload it?

In Scotland, the subjects eligible to be entered in Wiki Loves Monuments are those designated by Historic Environment Scotland references for Listed Buildings and Scheduled Monuments. If you’re not sure what buildings or monuments are classed as listed, don’t worry! We’ve got a great tool for you to use to upload your photos which includes an interactive map.

Blue pins on the map indicate monuments which already have a photo on Wikimedia Commons, whereas red pins indicate where they are missing. Select your town or city then wander around your local area and look for buildings or monuments with red pins. You can take photos on smartphones, tablets or cameras and then upload them by selecting the appropriate pin on the map and clicking upload. Make sure that you are logged into your Wikimedia Commons account and follow the basic instructions. Every photo uploaded via the interactive map will be entered into the Wiki Loves Monuments.

You can take more than one photo of a building or monument. Preferably one should be a photo of the building or monument as a whole, but also use your photographic flair to add photos of key features, inside views or behind the scenes features that the public doesn’t normally get to see. Doors Open Day runs throughout September and is a great opportunity to organise a photography tour of a building or a tour of the local listed monuments in your town.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and snapping pictures of the Glasgow City Chambers, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Anchor Line bar, Garnethill Synagogue and the Arlington Baths among many other locations as part of Glasgow Doors Open Days.

Other tips:

  • Not sure that your photo skills are up to the competition? Don’t worry about it, the important thing is to take part. The more photos we can crowdsource, the more we can improve the coverage of listed buildings and monuments in Scotland, which is our ultimate goal. You can also check the Wiki Loves Monuments blog for tips on how to best take architectural photos.
  • Wiki Loves Monuments is aimed at everyone! You don’t have to be an expert photographer, or have prior experience with any of the Wikimedia projects.
  • The competition runs through the whole of September from the 1st till the 30th and any entries uploaded during that time will be part of the competition. Photos don’t have to have been taken during September though, so you can add old photos, as long as they’ve not been previously uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Doors Open Day is a great opportunity to tie in with Wiki Loves Monuments, so if you know local DOD venues or if you work with a local heritage officer, please advertise it with them too.

How can you take part?

National Museum of Brazil, by Paulo R C M Jr. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world in a Rough Guide readers’ poll.

There’s nowhere quite like it.

Yet, we can take it for granted that our beautiful locations, listed buildings and monuments will always be there… something that can never be fully guaranteed. Political and economic tides change  and forces of nature can have devastating effects as we have seen with the destruction of Palmyra in Syria, the devastating fires at the National Museum of Brazil, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and, more closer to home, the Mackintosh building fire at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterwork.

There is a grief that comes from these lost buildings, their histories and what they had come to represent & symbolise. Recognising that there can be a profound regret and sadness at the cultural losses and a significant connection with the past means we can act today to look around us and appreciate the cultural heritage all around us. Many of us have access to a camera or camera phone and may even walk past these buildings every day. All it takes is looking up, taking a snap and uploading it in seconds and you’ve done something amazing to help document our cultural heritage for all time.

That’s why it’s so important that we take the opportunity to document our cultural heritage now for future generations before it is too late. Share your high quality pics of listed buildings and monuments to Wikimedia Commons and help preserve our cultural heritage online. After days out, weekend breaks and holidays at home & abroad, there will be gigabytes of pics taken in recent months and years. These could remain on your memory card or be shared to Commons and help illustrate Wikipedia for the benefit of all.

Aside from being great fun, Wiki Loves Monuments is a way of capturing a snapshot of our nation’s cultural heritage for future generations and documenting our country’s most important historic sites. Don’t wait till it’s too late, do your bit today! Click here to view a map of your local area to get started.

You just take a quick look at the map, take a pic and upload. It takes seconds and is the easiest way to take part in this year’s competition.

If each one of us took just 1 pic, we’d have this sewn up in a couple of weeks. Which is when Wiki Loves Monuments closes – end of 30 September 2020. But if you can do more then great.

#ScotWiki #WikiLovesMonuments

ps. If nothing else, let’s give our counterparts in Ireland, England and Wales a run for their money in terms of how many images we can upload. A little friendly rivalry never hurts, right?

Scotland uploaded 300+ images in 2016. That rose to 2,100 in 2017 with 1,351 of those uploaded by staff at the University of Edinburgh. In 2018, Scotland smashed it with 4,411 images uploaded. Let’s smash it again this September!

Let’s see if we can get pics from ALL over Scotland this year. Everyone is welcome to take part and every picture helps.

You can check out the images uploaded so far for Wiki Loves Monuments in Scotland here.

Final reflections on my Wikimedia Training Internship by Hannah Rothmann

Before starting my internship as the Wikimedia Training Intern at the University of Edinburgh, I did not know much about Wikipedia and its sister projects. I had obviously used Wikipedia; to settle arguments, as a springboard for research and as a helping hand in some particularly difficult pub quizzes. However, I had not given much thought to where that information came from, how it was curated, maintained and what prompted people to edit freely and in their spare time. The goal to make Wikipedia the ‘sum of all human knowledge’ lies behind the work of many editors. It is this possibility of open access to all knowledge for all that drives people. The majority of editors want to preserve information, such as creating an online database of small, nearly extinct languages. For many, it is also a wish to share knowledge, to help people and to make the internet a bit better that drives them to contribute. It is a noble aim and one that many strive to help achieve both within the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK, the UK branch of the Wikimedia Foundation.

However, I do acknowledge that Wikipedia and the other Wiki platforms are not perfect. They sadly reflect the biases that are inherent in our society. Only around 18% of all biographies on the English Wikipedia are on women and there are even less on women from the Global South. The representation of ethnic minorities is also problematic. A study in 2011 found that the perspective on Wikipedia tends to come from the Global North and this is something that needs to change as the editors of Wikipedia are predominantly male, college educated, white and in their 30s. Therefore, to make Wikipedia a better place we need to make learning how to edit and maintain Wikipedia accessible for all and we need to persuade people to get involved from all backgrounds to try to address the systemic bias on Wikipedia.

One way is through edit-a-thons, where people come together with a goal to edit and create articles around a particular topic. For example, a group called Women in Red create Wikipedia articles about notable women that are lacking from Wikipedia and they helped to increase the percentage of articles about women on the English Wikipedia from around 15% to around 18%. During my summer, I attended events aim at improving representation of women such as the NHLI Wikithon for Women in Science and events hosted by the Women’s Classical Committee. Both had great speakers and showed me the possibility for social activism that Wikipedia holds.

Another way to increase access to Wikipedia is through training materials. Making accessible and understandable ‘how to’ videos and content for Wikipedia and Wikidata, an open machine-readable database, has been a main focus of my internship and over the last few weeks I have been finalising what I have made and making a website for this information. This is not a final solution for Wikipedia and Wikidata training but hopefully it will be a place where most questions can be answered for those taking their tentative first steps into the world of wiki. Not only do we need to persuade people to edit but we also need them to continue to edit and this training resource could mean that there is a safety net for new editors to fall back on for help.

Working from home has had its difficulties. Waiting for software, for a headset and sending many emails which could have been short conversations in person are some of the things that have slowed down my work. It also is important to stay motivated when working from home as the days can blur especially when there is no distinction between home and work. However, the team at the university have been very friendly, they have been around to have video calls if I need any help and extremely supportive. Everyone is going through a strange time and working from home has been a good learning curve and one that will be important for my final year at university where most of my studying will take place remotely.

I am grateful for the skills I have learnt this summer during my internship and for an opportunity to learn about the positive work that we can collectively do on the internet. Hopefully, I will continue to edit Wikipedia and in a small way increase representation on the internet and open access to knowledge for all.

Thanks especially to Ewan McAndrew for all the help and guidance this summer!

Internship Blog #2: 4 weeks into my Wikimedia Internship by Hannah Rothmann

I have now finished 4 very busy weeks of my Wikimedia Training Internship! These past few weeks I have begun developing ideas and plans for training materials for Wikipedia and Wikidata and for a website where I can share these materials. This has meant that, among other things, I have been learning how to create a website and how to use screen capturing software; all useful skills! There have been some stumbling blocks in getting the relevant access to the necessary sites so I have spent time ensuring I had the skills to access platforms such as EdWeb.  Everything has now been sorted out and hopefully I will be able to progress smoothly for the next 8 weeks of the internship!

The website that I want to create will showcase the work that the Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh, Ewan McAndrew, is doing, explain the importance of Wikipedia and Wikidata, explore real life examples of using both platforms and hopefully give all novices the skills they need to feel confident using these platforms. It will be a mix of videos, pdfs, images and texts and I am looking forward to having a finished website which will be useful to many people embarking on their wiki-journey!

Working from home is still a strange experience but luckily frequent calls with colleagues and Wikimedians outside of the university ensure that I feel connected and part of something. Last week, I was able to sit in on some of the talks at the Celtic Knot Conference 2020 (originally meant to be held in Ireland) which changed up my routine a little. This conference  clearly exemplified how Wikipedia and especially Wikidata can cause real life change. The focus of this conference was

‘to bring people together to share their experiences of working on sharing information in minority languages’

and the organisers wanted to have

‘a strong focus on Wikidata and its potential to support languages’.[1]

One of the talks I attended was led by Léa Lacroix and Nicolas Vigneron who showed us how to input Wikidata lexemes. For example, Nicolas used Breton as the language he was inputting. This function of Wikidata is significant in ensuring that a record of these languages is accessible for many people in many languages. This is important work considering a recent study suggested that Scots Gaelic, for example, could die out within the decade.

The next few weeks I will be focusing on creating videos, the website and editing all of these materials. I will be also attending the Women’s Classical Committee UK Wiki colloquium at the end of July which describes itself as

‘a crowd-sourced initiative that aims to increase the representation of women classicists (very broadly conceived) on Wikipedia.’[2]

This neatly combines my degree, Classics, with the new skills and interests I am developing from this internship and it is a good way I can practically put these new skills to use diversifying Wikipedia!

[1] https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Celtic_Knot_Conference_2020

[2] https://ics.sas.ac.uk/events/event/22700

Internship Blog #3: #WCCWiki Colloquium 2020 by Hannah Rothmann

Credit: Statue of Hygeia, copy of orginal in vatican. Credit: Wellcome Collection. Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)

Today I had the chance to attend the #WCCWiki Colloquium 2020. This was an event organised by the Women’s Classical Committee UK. #WCCWiki describes itself as

‘a crowd-sourced initiative that aims to increase the representation of women classicists (very broadly conceived) on Wikipedia.’ [1]

Since they started in 2016, they have edited and/or created more than 450 Wikipedia pages for women classicists. This is an impressive feat and important to increase the diversity on Wikipedia. You may be wondering why we need to increase the diversity of pages about Classics on Wikipedia? It is because the gender bias on Wikipedia becomes even clearer when looking at classics:

‘one Wikipedia editor estimated in 2016 that only 7% of biographies of classicists featured women’.[2]

This statistic has become less extreme due to the efforts of #WCCWiki but there is still lots of work for us to do.

At the event itself, there were a series of talks ranging from why it is important for us to edit Wikipedia to LGBTQ+ Wikipedia editing. The talks touched upon the issues that editors come across when creating new articles. For example, Adam Parker discussed notability. When creating new biographies on Wikipedia notability is a really important aspect to focus on. It is usually because of failing the criteria for notability that new articles are excluded. Jess Wade faced this issue when writing about the nuclear chemist Clarice Phelps.[3] Phelps’ page caused controversy with editors deleting her page numerous times. Eventually, by January 2020 her page was restored. This happened again when a page made for Donna Strickland after she had won the Nobel Prize for Physics was deleted.[4] However, there were issues surrounding the original page created for Donna Strickland and these are explored in a post by the Wikimedia Foundation which also explains some of the problems that come up when thinking about notability.[5] These issues surrounding notability come up again and again and are a continual battle.

In the afternoon, Miller Power gave an important talk on LGBTQ+ Wikipedia editing. He discussed the issues that the LGBTQ+ community face on Wikipedia such as queer erasure and harassment which can lead to edit wars. For example, this could be changing pronouns or using deadnames when it is not necessary. An example of one of these edit wars is the Wikipedia page for Harry Allen (trans man) where corrections kept needed to be made. Miller Power also discussed what we should be aware of when writing about LGBTQ+ people on Wikipedia including consistently using correct gendered language and avoiding outdated language and phrases such as ‘used to be a man’.

It was a positive and informative day that really showed what a group of motivated people are able to achieve. If you want to edit or create pages here is a list on the Women’s Classical Committee project page and they are also planning an online editing session on the 19th August.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Women%27s_Classical_Committee/Colloquia

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/dec/12/female-scholars-are-marginalised-on-wikipedia-because-its-written-by-men

[3] https://www.chemistryworld.com/news/female-scientists-pages-keep-disappearing-from-wikipedia–whats-going-on/3010664.article

[4] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/nobel-prize-winner-physics-2018-donna-strickland-wikipedia-entry-deleted-sexism-equality-a8572006.html

[5] https://wikimediafoundation.org/news/2018/10/04/donna-strickland-wikipedia/

Internship Blog #1: My First Week by Hannah Rothmann

Hi, my name is Hannah and I will be going into the final year of my Classics degree in September. I have just finished week 1 of my Wikimedia Training Internship; the start date was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that came with it. Adjusting to working remotely from home, meeting new people but over video calls and Microsoft teams and also learning about entirely new things has meant that it has been a strange and somewhat nerve-racking first week and not what I would have expected from a summer internship a year ago. Thankfully, my line manager, Ewan McAndrew, has been very welcoming and made me feel at ease despite this novel situation!

The Wikimedia Training Internship caught my attention among a long and varied list of Employ.Ed internships. The aim of my internship of is to create materials to teach people how to edit and use Wikipedia and Wikidata with the goal of them becoming active editors and contributing to a growing database of free, credible and jointly gathered information. I was shocked when I discovered this week that only around 18% of biographical pages on the English Wikipedia are about women! Hopefully, by making more accessible teaching materials we will be able to address this imbalance and increase the diversity of Wikipedia and Wikidata. This means making resources that avoid complicated jargon, address all stumbling blocks a beginner wiki-user may encounter and will enable the uninitiated to become confident editors and contributors. Wikimedia UK believes

‘that open access to knowledge is a fundamental right’ and in the ‘democratic creation, distribution and consumption of knowledge’.[1]

These aims demonstrate the importance of the work of Wikimedia UK. My line manager Ewan stressed this importance and that Wikimedia related activities have a growing significance in a learning environment shifting more towards the digital world when he had to argue that the internship should go ahead despite financial impact COVID-19 on the university; many internships were cancelled. My internship will hopefully enable remote learning and help people see how they can change their approach to teaching to incorporate Wikimedia related activities into how students learn.

This aim means that the work I am doing is firmly rooted in the present and even the future. Just this week I have learnt new ways to use technology and skills which will be indispensable in a world moving ever more into the realm of online, online learning and the online experience. Although at first glance this internship appears in direct contrast to my Classics degree, which is focussed among other things on reading and interpreting ancient texts, the aim of a Classics degree, in my opinion, is to understand that ideas and concepts of whatever period always have relevance and there is always the possibility of continual learning.  The different skills I will develop in my internship and the skills I am learning from my degree will hopefully enrich my approach to work and any work that I do in this time and in the future.

So far, I have been getting used to remote working and all the quirks that come with it (hoovering is not something that goes too well with a work video call for example!) and I have also been figuring out where the gaps are in the current resources that Ewan has to teach people about Wikipedia and Wikidata while also filling in my rather large gaps of knowledge. For example, I had no idea what Wikidata really was before the start of my first week and I am still trying to understand it fully. I was lucky enough to attend the NHLI Women in Science Wikithon at the end of my first week which gave me a chance to implement what I had learnt about Wikipedia editing and it showed me how much more still needs to be done to improve diversity. Dr Jess Wade, who was Wikimedia UK’s Wikimedian of the year 2019, gave an introduction exploring why we should all edit Wikipedia. She has personally made hundreds and hundreds of Wikipedia pages for women and for notable women in science who previously had been ignored and in doing this has increased awareness regarding Wikipedia and how it can be used to tackle inequality and lack of diversity. After this introduction, it was a treat to have some training from Dr Alice White who showed us how to begin editing and creating our own pages. I edited some pages already created but lacking details, for example a page about Dr Susan Bewley, as I did not feel quite ready to begin making my own pages. The work Dr Jess Wade has been doing and continues to do along with this event really showed me how Wikipedia could be used as a force for good and also the importance of ensuring people have access to learning materials.

I am excited about getting to grips with my internship, developing skills, challenging my abilities all with the aim to make Wikipedia and Wikidata a platform that anyone anywhere will feel able to use, edit and appreciate!

 

[1] https://wikimedia.org.uk/ viewed 30/06/2020

Knowledge activism vs passive consumption – rethinking Wikipedia in education

Kindness on the Internet has been much in the news of late and this quote from novelist Henry James stood out to me:

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

I have been working at the University of Edinburgh for over four years now as the Wikimedian in Residence. Four years as of January 2020 in fact, just as Wikipedia itself turned nineteen years old on January 15th 2020. In thinking about this period of my working life, I am reminded of some of the (sometimes) sceptical conversations I have had with (some) academics over the years but more often than not I recall the enthusiasm, generosity and kindness I have encountered.  And I’m reminded also of the words of Katherine Maher, Executive Director for the Wikimedia Foundation, when she said that Wikipedia, ultimately, is based on human generosity; that the act of editing Wikipedia is a generous act by volunteer editors all around the world because they are giving of their time, their expertise and their passion for a subject in order to improve the knowledge shared openly with the world through this free and open online encyclopedia. And why? Well because…

“Knowledge creates understanding – understanding is sorely lacking in today’s world.” – Katherine Maher.

While the residency has been something of an experiment, a proof of concept if you will for hosting a Wikimedian to support the whole university, I am more convinced than ever that there is a clear role, a structural need even, for Wikimedia in teaching and learning.

Yet while I am an employee of the University of Edinburgh, I attended the other place (University of Glasgow) for my undergraduate course and my postgraduate courses were at Glasgow Caledonian University, University of Strathclyde and Northumbria University. So four years at the University of Edinburgh and experience of five universities all told. As 74 UK universities go on strike now and a national conversation is being held about working conditions, casualised contracts and the workloads of staff at universities it does indeed give pause for thought. Time, for thought and reflection on the purpose of education… and its delivery.

Now imagine you are relaxing after work in a sauna at your local swimming pool one evening and a guy called Patrick starts chatting to you and asking what you do for a living. You tell Patrick why, I’m a Wikipedian at the University of Edinburgh. And Patrick replies… “Cool. What’s Wikipedia got to do with universities?”

Have a think for a moment… what is the link between Wikipedia and Universities? What would you say? How would you answer?

Well Patrick, it’s a fair question. Let’s see.

How about shared vision and mission statements. “The creation, curation and dissemination of knowledge” is built into the University of Edinburgh’s mission while Wikimedia’s vision is to “Imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. That’s our commitment.

And as Sue Beckingham said in her Association for Learning Technology (ALT) keynote it’s about engaging with & understanding the relationship we have with the open web, how people create, curate and contest knowledge online and our relationship with the big digital intermediaries like Facebook, Google, Amazon and Wikipedia, the fifth most visited website in the world.

Then there’s the Digital Skills aspect – It is widely recognised that digital capabilities are a key component of graduate employability. So many reports make this clear. Supporting learning digital research skills, synthesising that information and communicating it in a rapidly changing digital world.

And it’s about how we support developing a more robust critical information literacy. In fact, this is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the areas that working with the free and open Wikimedia projects affords. At its heart its about the fact that search is the way we live now and what’s right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the whole internet. And this is how Wikipedia in teaching in learning is often framed – warning students about its use, pros and cons, often with the focus firmly on the cons, as something to be consumed at your peril. When Wikipedia in teaching and learning should really spin this on its head. It’s what you can also contribute as an institution, staff and students, and get out of the teaching & learning experience as a result.

Indeed, the ALT website defines Learning Technology as this:

“We define Learning Technology as the broad range of communication, information and related technologies that can be used to support learning, teaching and assessment. Our community is made up of people who are actively involved in understanding, managing, researching, supporting or enabling learning with the use of Learning Technology. We believe that you don’t need to be called ‘Learning Technologist’ to be one.”

Wikipedia is learning technology, the largest open knowledge resource in human history that is free, open and anyone can contribute to. Now aged nineteen, as of last month, Wikipedia has truly come of age and ranks among the world’s top ten sites for scholarly resource lookups and is extensively used by virtually every platform used on a daily basis, receiving over 20 billion pageviews per month, from 1.5 billion unique devices. The only non profit website in the top 100 websites, quite simply “Wikipedia is today the gateway through which millions of people now seek access to knowledge.”- (Cronon, 2012)

Ergo… Wikimedians are learning technologists. And a Wikimedian is just someone who has learnt how to train people how to edit, who facilitates editing events and assignments.

Ergo… Learning technologists are Wikimedians or they should be.

Because at the University of Edinburgh, we have quickly generated real examples of technology-enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum and transformed our students, staff and members of the public from being passive readers and consumers to being active, engaged contributors. The result is that our community is more engaged with knowledge creation online and readers all over the world benefit from our teaching, research and collections.

Our Wikimedia in the Curriculum activities bring benefits to the students who learn new skills and have immediate impact in addressing both the diversity of editors and diversity of content shared online:

  • Global Health MSc students add 180-200 words to Global Health related articles e.g. their edits to the page on obesity are viewed 3,000 times per day on average.
  • Digital Sociology MSc students engage in workshops with how sociology is communicated and how knowledge is created and curated online each year.
  • Reproductive Biology Honours – students work in groups in 2 workshops at the beginning of the semester – learning about digital research kills from our Academic Support Librarians so they can work collaboratively to research and publish a new article on a reproductive biomedical term not yet on Wikipedia. One student’s article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer, includes 60 references and diagrams she created, has been viewed over 88,000 times since 2016. That’s impact.
  • Translation Studies MSc students gain meaningful published practice each semester by translating 1,500 words to share knowledge between two different language Wikipedias on a topic of their own choosing from the highest quality articles.
  • World Christianity MSc students spend the semester undertaking a literature review assignment to make the subject much less about White Northern hemisphere perspectives; creating new articles on Asian Feminist Theology, Sub-Saharan Political Theology and more.
  • Data Science for Design MSc – Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, affords students the opportunity to work practically with research datasets, like the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database, and surface data to the Linked Open Data Cloud and explore different visualisations and the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge to help further discovery.
  • This academic year we have also added three more course programmes in Korean Studies MSc, Digital Education MSc (group editing pages related to information literacy), and Global Health Challenges Postgraduate Online (group editing on short stub articles on natural disasters). Indeed we are looking increasingly at how we support online course programmes and supporting discussion, engagement and up-skilling students on these course programmes in more structured self-directed way.

We also work with student societies (Law & Technology, History, Translation, Women in STEM, Wellcomm Kings) and have held events for Ada Lovelace Day, LGBT History Month, Black History Month, Mental Health Awareness Week and celebrated Edinburgh’s Global Alumni; working with the UncoverEd project and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

Students are addressing serious knowledge gaps and are intrinsically motivated to communicate their scholarship because of this. They benefit from the practice academically and enjoy doing it personally because their scholarship is published, lasting long beyond the assignment and does something for the common good for an audience of not one but millions.

Why engage at all? I think we know that representation matters. And that Gender inequality in science and technology is all too real. Gaps in our shared knowledge excludes the vitally important contributions of many within our community and role models, trail blazers are important. You can’t be what you can’t see. To date, 69% of our participating editors at the University of Edinburgh have been women. The choices being made in creating new pages and increasing the visibility of topics and the visibility of inspirational role models online can not only shape public understanding around the world for the better but can also help inform and shape our physical environments to inspire the next generation.

Wikipedia in the curriculum involves identifying reliable secondary sources we can cite (or sometimes the lack thereof); discussing whose knowledge, open access, bias, neutral point of view, writing for a lay audience and copyright. These are all absolutely appropriate for the modern graduate. The skills needed by those contributing to Wikimedia are the same digital literacy skills which a degree at University of Edinburgh is designed to develop: Those of critical reading, summarising, paraphrasing, original writing, referencing, citing, publishing, data handling, and understanding your audience.  In this era of fake news it has never been more important that our students understand how information is published, shared, and contested online. And beyond this, feel empowered that they can do something positive to share fact-checked knowledge and help build understanding.

 “Because It’s an emotional connection… Within, I’d say, less than 2 hours of me putting her page in place it was the top hit that came back in Google when I Googled it and I just thought that’s it, that’s impact right there!” (Hood & Littlejohn, 2018)

Things can look bleak when we think about all we see in the news and our relationship with the open web and the way in which information is shared online. It’s easy to lose faith at times. Indeed almost two years ago, Sir Tim Berners-Lee was on Channel 4 News being interviewed about the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal and he said this.

“We need to rethink our attitude to the internet.

It is not enough just to keep the web open and free because we must also keep a track of what people are building on it.

Look at the systems that people are using, like the social networks and look at whether they are actually helping humanity.

Are they being constructive or are they being destructive?”

And he’s later reiterated this point that he feels the open web is at something of a crossroads and could go either way.

Happily, Sir Tim had cheered up a little by May 2018 when he gave his Turing Award lecture in Amsterdam when he said,

“It is amazing that humanity has managed to produce Wikipedia. Somebody recently said, “You know what? For all of the defending of the open net and the open web, it would have been worth it if we just got Wikipedia.”

It IS amazing that humanity has produced Wikipedia. And he’s right. That’s my experience of working with Wikipedia. The research, the feedback from staff and students all bear this out. People do feel they are doing something inherently good, and worthwhile in sharing verifiable open knowledge and they learn so much from engaging in this process. Becoming knowledge activists. I commend it to you as a hugely impactful form of learning technology where our staff, students, research and collections can help shape the open web for the better, building understanding to make for a kinder, better world.

 

Bibliography

  1. Wadewitz, A. (2014). 04. Teaching with Wikipedia: the Why, What, and How. Retrieved from https://www.hastac.org/blogs/wadewitz/2014/02/21/04-teaching-wikipedia-why-what-and-how
  2. Cronon, W. (2012). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World | Perspectives on History | AHA. Retrieved from https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/february-2012/scholarly-authority-in-a-wikified-world
  3. Levine, N. (2019). A Ridiculous Gender Bias On Wikipedia Is Finally Being Corrected. Retrieved from https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/06/234873/womens-world-cup-football-wikipedia
  4. Mathewson, J., & McGrady, R. (2018). Experts Improve Public Understanding of Sociology Through Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://www.asanet.org/news-events/footnotes/apr-may-2018/features/experts-improve-public-understanding-sociology-through-wikipedia
  5. Hood, N., & Littlejohn, A. (2018). Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/23-1/paper784.html
  6. McAndrew, E., O’Connor, S., Thomas, S., & White, A. (2019). Women scientists being whitewashed from Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/women-scientists-being-whitewashed-from-wikipedia-ewan-mcandrew-siobhan-o-connor-dr-sara-thomas-and-dr-alice-white-1-4887048
  7. McMahon, C.; Johnson, I.; and Hecht, B. (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.

 

The Wikimedia residency is a free resource available to all staff and students interested in exploring how to benefit from and contribute to the free and open Wikimedia projects.

If you would like to find out more contact ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

In the news

Scotland Loves Monuments 2019

Get involved in Wiki Loves Monuments!

Wiki Loves Monuments is an international photo competition which takes part throughout the month of September every year, and is supported by the Wikimedia Foundation. The aim is to crowdsource as many high quality, openly licensed photos as possible of scheduled monuments and listed buildings throughout the world. Why? Because documenting our cultural heritage today is so important.
In the UK, there will be prizes for the best photos of a site in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales as well as prizes for the best UK photos overall. The latter will then be put forward for international prizes. 

Why take part?

Portobello and Wikipedia – Great 8 min podcast featuring University of Edinburgh Digital Curator Gavin Willshaw and Dr Margaret Munro of the Portobello Heritage Society discussing the importance of surfacing local heritage online.
Portobello beach by Photochrom Print Collection [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 
Wikimedia Commons is a free repository of photographs, audio and video content that anyone can use, re-use or distribute. Images on Commons can also be used to illustrate Wikipedia articles – which can then be seen by a global audience.  But not all of our rich heritage is represented – there are a number of gaps when it comes to the coverage of Scotland – and this year, we’d like to do what we can to change that.
Is your organisation or group looking for activities for September?  Wiki Loves Monuments can be a great activity for local social or volunteer groups, not just those those concerned with photography or history.  Why not organise a heritage walk to take pictures of listed buildings in the local area, and visit the local museum or library at the same time?

How do you take part?

Register for an account on Wikimedia Commons. (Individuals only, no organisational accounts.) If you already have a Wikipedia account, no need to register for a new account on Wikimedia Commons, you can use the same account for Wikimedia Commons. To enter the competition you must make sure that your account has a valid email address and that your email is activated. To check that, once you have logged in, look for “My preferences” tab at the top right of the page. Click on it, and then select “enable email from other users.”  This will allow the competition organisers and other registered users on Wikipedia/Wikimedia Commons to contact you but will not make your email address publicly available.
Wiki Loves Monuments – dynamic map of Edinburgh showing listed buildings requiring an image (in red).

What should you photograph? How do you upload it?

In Scotland, the subjects eligible to be entered in Wiki Loves Monuments are those designated by Historic Environment Scotland references for Listed Buildings and Scheduled Monuments. If you’re not sure what buildings or monuments are classed as listed, don’t worry! We’ve got a great tool for you to use to upload your photos which includes an interactive map.

Blue pins on the map indicate monuments which already have a photo on Wikimedia Commons, whereas red pins indicate where they are missing. Select your town or city then wander around your local area and look for buildings or monuments with red pins. You can take photos on smartphones, tablets or cameras and then upload them by selecting the appropriate pin on the map and clicking upload. Make sure that you are logged into your Wikimedia Commons account and follow the basic instructions. Every photo uploaded via the interactive map will be entered into the Wiki Loves Monuments.

You can take more than one photo of a building or monument. Preferably one should be a photo of the building or monument as a whole, but also use your photographic flair to add photos of key features, inside views or behind the scenes features that the public doesn’t normally get to see. Doors Open Day runs throughout September and is a great opportunity to organise a photography tour of a building or a tour of the local listed monuments in your town.

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting and snapping pictures of the Glasgow City Chambers, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons, the Anchor Line bar, Garnethill Synagogue and the Arlington Baths among many other locations as part of Glasgow Doors Open Days 2018.

Other tips:

  • Not sure that your photo skills are up to the competition? Don’t worry about it, the important thing is to take part. The more photos we can crowdsource, the more we can improve the coverage of listed buildings and monuments in Scotland, which is our ultimate goal. You can also check the Wiki Loves Monuments blog for tips on how to best take architectural photos.
  • Wiki Loves Monuments is aimed at everyone! You don’t have to be an expert photographer, or have prior experience with any of the Wikimedia projects.
  • The competition runs through the whole of September from the 1st till the 30th and any entries uploaded during that time will be part of the competition. Photos don’t have to have been taken during September though, so you can add old photos, as long as they’ve not been previously uploaded to Wikimedia Commons. Doors Open Day is a great opportunity to tie in with Wiki Loves Monuments, so if you know local DOD venues or if you work with a local heritage officer, please advertise it with them too.

How can you take part?

National Museum of Brazil, by Paulo R C M Jr. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

In 2017, Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world in a Rough Guide readers’ poll.

There’s nowhere quite like it.

Yet, we can take it for granted that our beautiful locations, listed buildings and monuments will always be there… something that can never be fully guaranteed. Political and economic tides change  and forces of nature can have devastating effects as we have seen with the destruction of Palmyra in Syria, the devastating fires at the National Museum of Brazil, Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and, more closer to home, the Mackintosh building fire at the Glasgow School of Art, Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterwork. There is a grief that comes from these lost buildings, their histories and what they had come to represent & symbolise. Recognising that there can be a profound regret and sadness at the cultural losses and a significant connection with the past means we can act today to look around us and appreciate the cultural heritage all around us. Many of us have access to a camera or camera phone and may even walk past these buildings every day. All it takes is looking up, taking a snap and uploading it in seconds and you’ve done something amazing to help document our cultural heritage for all time.

That’s why it’s so important that we take the opportunity to document our cultural heritage now for future generations before it is too late. Share your high quality pics of listed buildings and monuments to Wikimedia Commons and help preserve our cultural heritage online. After days out, weekend breaks and holidays at home & abroad, there will be gigabytes of pics taken in recent months and years. These could remain on your memory card or be shared to Commons and help illustrate Wikipedia for the benefit of all.

Aside from being great fun, Wiki Loves Monuments is a way of capturing a snapshot of our nation’s cultural heritage for future generations and documenting our country’s most important historic sites. Don’t wait till it’s too late, do your bit today! Click here to view a map of your local area to get started.

You just take a quick look at the map, take a pic and upload. It takes seconds and is the easiest way to take part in this year’s competition.

If each one of us took just 1 pic, we’d have this sewn up in a couple of weeks. Which is when Wiki Loves Monuments closes – end of 30 September 2019. But if you can do more then great.

#ScotWiki #WikiLovesMonuments

ps. If nothing else, let’s give our counterparts in Ireland, England and Wales a run for their money in terms of how many images we can upload. A little friendly rivalry never hurts, right?

Scotland uploaded 300+ images in 2016. That rose to 2,100 in 2017 with 1,351 of those uploaded by staff at the University of Edinburgh. In 2018, Scotland smashed it with 4,411 images uploaded. Let’s smash it again this September!

Let’s see if we can get pics from ALL over Scotland this year. Everyone is welcome to take part and every picture helps.

You can check out the images uploaded so far for Wiki Loves Monuments in Scotland here.

Wikimania 2019

Digital Support Librarian Lauren Smith reports on her first-time attendance at Wikimania 2019 in Stockholm, Sweden.

My conference experience

Once I’d got my head round the different buildings, room numbering systems and Wikimania room naming conventions, I was able to find my way around the beautiful campus and lovely spaces fairly easily. I found the event inclusive, accessible and conscious of its social and environmental responsibilities in how it was organised and conducted, which was appreciated. The friendly spaces policy was an important aspect of this, as well as the distribution of reusable water bottles and eco-friendly name tags.

Session identifiers in the programme were particularly useful and helped me pick which sessions would be informative for a newcomer to Wikimedia, and I unashamedly hopped about between sessions to make sure I could attend the things most interesting to me.

Learning

I enjoyed the keynote address by Michael Peter Edson, co-founder and Associate Director of The Museum for the United Nations, who encouraged attendees to share their own stories about how technology and their work with Wikimedia relates to the UN’s sustainable development goals.

Subhashish Panigrahi’s session ‘Behind the scenes of the Odia Wikipedia how-to video tutorials’ was an especially valuable and timely session to attend, because I am currently involved in producing videos for our library service to support users’ understanding of how to access and use the information and resources available through the library and more broadly online. I took away a lot of hints, tips and good practice principles about things like scripting, b-roll and editing that I’ll be putting to work immediately!

I found myself most drawn to the Library sessions (obviously) but also the Education strand, as someone particularly interested in innovative pedagogical approaches to supporting the development of critical information literacy. Finding out about how people advocated for the introduction of wiki-related educational activities centred around social justice initiatives (such as addressing the gender gap) in their institutions and how they overcame challenges was good food for thought for planning my own potential future work.

Panel discussion: Enhancing Awareness to the Gender Gap through EduWiki (CC-BY-SA Lauren Smith)

Other sessions focused on discussions of the limitations of traditional models of open educational resources such as textbooks and how approaches to personalised learning may be more effective, examples of work taking place in schools and universities using activities within Wikipedia and Wiktionary to empower students and support public access to diverse knowledge, challenges to scaling wiki in educational settings. Of particular relevance was the panel discussion ‘Education & Libraries: Opportunities Explored’ (video available on page). This panel discussed the benefits, challenges and opportunities of EduWiki initiatives collaborating with libraries, how the Wikimedia & Libraries community and the Wikimedia & Education community could work better together. This is something I am looking forward to learning more about.

It was great to hear about the work taking place to make the metadata from library collections and about library spaces themselves available through Wikimedia to improve public access to education and information resources. It’s inspired me to find out more about what’s happening at the University of Edinburgh, as a newcomer to the institution with a newfound interest in all things Wikimedia.

Overall

As a newcomer to both the Wikimania conference and the field of Wikimedia in general, I found the experience a little overwhelming and wasn’t able to keep up with all the varied and technical discussions about the work taking place, but what was very clear to me was the good intent and belief in the potential for positive outcomes from the wide range of work taking place, often under people’s own steam, but with the support of the wider community and the Wikimedia Foundation. One criticism some attendees had was about the breadth of the conference and how this meant there was almost too much choice, and I think perhaps this was part of the challenge I had in getting to grips with what was going on! However, the opportunity to explore such a diverse range of work was eye-opening.

Beyond the conference, on campus I of course explored the university library…

Stockholm University Library (CC-BY-SA Lauren Smith)

I also made the most of the electric scooters available for hire, and found my way to an excellent yarn shop…

Scooter adventure (CC-BY-SA Lauren Smith)

Next steps

I need to bite the bullet and learn how to edit Wikipedia articles before I can really take any more steps in terms of implementing any of the ideas I have in practice, but I’m hoping to develop some plans with colleagues around how we can embed information literacy activities into the curriculum using Wikimedia as the basis of activities and projects centred around critical perspectives on information, social justice and representation. I also want to learn more about the EduWiki community and the kind of work taking place there to support digital and information literacies, for examples of good practice and perhaps to join a supportive community as I start to engage with this area.

Many thanks to the Learning, Teaching and Web Team for giving me the opportunity to attend the conference.

Balance for Better – Teaching Matters

Wikimedian in Residence highlights how staff & students are engaging with Wikipedia to address the diversity of editors & content shared online.

“The information that is on Wikipedia spreads across the internet. What is right or wrong or missing on Wikipedia affects the entire internet.” (Wadewitz, 2014)

Wikipedia, the free, online, encyclopaedia is building the largest open knowledge resource in human history. Now aged eighteen, Wikipedia ranks among the world’s top ten sites for scholarly resource lookups and is extensively used by virtually every platform used on a daily basis, receiving over 500 million views per month, from 1.5 billion unique devices. As topics on Wikipedia become more visible on Google, they receive more press coverage and become better known amongst the public.

“Wikipedia is today the gateway through which millions of people now seek access to knowledge.”- (Cronon, 2012)

At the University of Edinburgh, we have quickly generated real examples of technology-enhanced learning activities appropriate to the curriculum and transformed our students, staff and members of the public from being passive readers and consumers to being active, engaged contributors. The result is that our community is more engaged with knowledge creation online and readers all over the world benefit from our teaching, research and collections.

While Wikipedia has significant reach and influence, it also has significant gaps in its coverage of topics, articles in other languages and the diversity of its editors. Most editors are white men, and topics covered reflect this with less than 18 percent of biographies on English Wikipedia about women. The Wikimedia community are committed to diversity and inclusivity and have developed, and worked with, a number of initiatives to ensure knowledge equity such as Whose Knowledge.org and WikiProject Women in Red, with Wikimedia’s campaign for 200 more biographies of female sportswomen (Levine, 2019) just one recent example of looking at ways to address this systemic bias.

 

Our Wikimedia in the Curriculum activities bring benefits to the students who learn new skills and have immediate impact in addressing both the diversity of editors and diversity of content shared online:

 

  • Global Health MSc students add 180-200 words to Global Health related articles e.g. their edits to the page on obesity are viewed 3,000 times per day on average.
  • Digital Sociology MSc students engage in workshops with how sociology is communicated and how knowledge is created and curated online each year as a response to the recent ASA article.
  • Reproductive Biology Honours – a student’s article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most common forms of ovarian cancer, includes 60 references and diagrams she created, has been viewed over 67,000 times since 2016.
  • Translation Studies MSc students gain meaningful published practice by translating 2,000 words to share knowledge between two different language Wikipedias on a topic of their own choosing.
  • World Christianity MSc students undertake a literature review assignment to make the subject much less about White Northern hemisphere perspectives; creating new articles on Asian Feminist Theology, Sub-Saharan Political Theology and more.
  • Data Science for Design MSc – Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikidata, affords students the opportunity to work practically with research datasets, like the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft Database, and surface data to the Linked Open Data Cloud and explore the direct and indirect relationships at play in this semantic web of knowledge to help further discovery.

We also work with student societies (Law & Technology, History, Translation, Women in STEM, Wellcomm Kings) and have held events for Ada Lovelace Day, LGBT History Month, Black History Month and celebrated Edinburgh’s Global Alumni; working with the UncoverEd project and the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission.

Students are addressing serious knowledge gaps and are intrinsically motivated to do so because their scholarship is published and does something lasting for the common good, for an audience of not one but millions.

Representation matters. Gender inequality in science and technology is all too real. Gaps in our shared knowledge excludes the vitally important contributions of many within our community and you can’t be what you can’t see. To date, 65% of our participating editors at the University of Edinburgh have been women. The choices being made in creating new pages and increasing the visibility of topics and the visibility of inspirational role models online can not only shape public understanding around the world for the better but also help inform and shape our physical environments to inspire the next generation.

 “It’s an emotional connection… Within, I’d say, less than 2 hours of me putting her page in place it was the top hit that came back in Google when I Googled it and I just thought that’s it, that’s impact right there!” (Hood & Littlejohn, 2018)

Rosie Taylor and Isobel Cordrey from the student support group, Wellcomm Kings, co-hosted the Wikipedia Diversithon event for LGBT History Month at the Festival of Creative Learning 2019.

Bibliography

  1. Wadewitz, A. (2014). 04. Teaching with Wikipedia: the Why, What, and How. Retrieved from https://www.hastac.org/blogs/wadewitz/2014/02/21/04-teaching-wikipedia-why-what-and-how
  2. Cronon, W. (2012). Scholarly Authority in a Wikified World | Perspectives on History | AHA. Retrieved from https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-history/february-2012/scholarly-authority-in-a-wikified-world
  3. Levine, N. (2019). A Ridiculous Gender Bias On Wikipedia Is Finally Being Corrected. Retrieved from https://www.refinery29.com/en-gb/2019/06/234873/womens-world-cup-football-wikipedia
  4. Mathewson, J., & McGrady, R. (2018). Experts Improve Public Understanding of Sociology Through Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://www.asanet.org/news-events/footnotes/apr-may-2018/features/experts-improve-public-understanding-sociology-through-wikipedia
  5. Hood, N., & Littlejohn, A. (2018). Becoming an online editor: perceived roles and responsibilities of Wikipedia editors. Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/23-1/paper784.html
  6. McAndrew, E., O’Connor, S., Thomas, S., & White, A. (2019). Women scientists being whitewashed from Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/women-scientists-being-whitewashed-from-wikipedia-ewan-mcandrew-siobhan-o-connor-dr-sara-thomas-and-dr-alice-white-1-4887048
  7. McMahon, C.; Johnson, I.; and Hecht, B. (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.

 

The Wikimedia residency is a free resource available to all staff and students interested in exploring how to benefit from and contribute to the free and open Wikimedia projects.

If you would like to find out more contact ewan.mcandrew@ed.ac.uk

In the news