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.
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.
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)
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.