Wikimedian in Residence @emcandre 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 andmembers 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 as a response to the recent ASA article.
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.
“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)
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
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.
This post was co-authored with Jemima John (pictured above), 4th year undergraduate student at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Law and a Digital Skills intern in Information Services. It was written with a focus on Wikipedia and legal education but speaks to Wikipedia’s role in tertiary education more generally. You can watch an interview with Jemima John on Media Hopper.
Uses of Wikipedia in higher education
Since the early 2000’s, Wikipedia has acquired somewhat of a negative reputation for being unreliable. Educators are normally wary of allowing Wikipedia as a source that anyone can edit. This is due to believing it to be a source of misinformation, going directly against their role to reduce misinformation in the world.
However, what if the contrary is true?
What if Wikipedia can be used to reduce misinformation in the world, an often-highlighted problem of our current times. This is the very mission of Wikimedia organization. The Wikimedia projects exist to combat misinformation. Indeed, Wikipedians have been combating fake news for years as source evaluation is a core skill of a Wikipedian. Researchers found that only 7 percent of all Wikipedia edits are considered vandalism and nearly all vandalism edits are reverted instantly by automated programs (bots) which help to patrol Wikipedia for copyright violation, plagiarism and vandalism. If a page is targeted for vandalism it can also be ‘semi-protected’ (essentially locking the page so new edits are reviewed before being added) for one day, two days or longer as required while accounts or IP addresses repeating vandalism can be blocked indefinitely. While Wikipedia is still the encyclopedia that anyone can edit, a recent implementation is new users cannot create new pages until their account has been active for four days and accrued at least ten edits. Within the first four days, however, new users can submit their new pages for review by another editor who quality checks it is sufficiently neutral, notable and well-referenced for inclusion in Wikipedia’s live space.
Due to open licensing of Wikipedia content, it is more visible across the Internet. For example, Google scrapes from Wikipedia biographies to feature as sidebar profiles as part of its ‘Knowledge Graph’ answer engine results for notable people; among many other topics. Wikipedia articles also happen to be within the top five search results due to its preferential status in Google’s ranking algorithm. This is important when one considers ‘search is the way we live now’. According to 2011 figures, Google processed 91% of searches internationally and 97.4% of searches from mobile devices. Google has also been found to have a funneling effect whereby the sources clicked upon the first page of results are clicked on 90% of the time with 42% click through on the first choice alone. Indeed, more recently, research published in 2017 found that Wikipedia and Google have a symbiotic relationship whereby Google depends on Wikipedia – click through rates decrease by 80% if Wikipedia links are removed – and Wikipedia depends on Google – 84.5% of the visits to Wikipedia are attributable to Google. While, just this year, researchers at MIT and the University of Pittsburgh published a paper that evidenced that science is actually shaped by Wikipedia; demonstrating the free encyclopedia’s influence. The randomised control trial the researchers undertook evidenced a strong causal impact that, as one of the most accessed websites in the world, incorporating ideas into Wikipedia leads to those ideas being used more in the scientific literature. 
Today Wikipedia is the fifth most visited website on the Internet and sometimes more trusted than traditional news publications, according to a recent YouGov poll. This poll indicated that Wikipedia was trusted by the British people more than such reputable news sites as the Guardian, BBC, the Telegraph, the Times and others. Wikipedia relies on these sources, and other similar sources with a reputation for fact-checking and accuracy, so would not necessarily advocate trusting a Wikipedia article over these other sites.
However, Wikipedia’s policies on Neutral Point of View (NPOV) and identifying reliable sources do help police its content and plainly increases trust in its content. Research from the Harvard Business School has also discovered that, unlike other more partisan areas of the internet, Wikipedia’s focus on NPOV (neutral point of view) means editors actually become more moderate over time; the researchers seeing this as evidence that editing “Wikipedia helps break people out of their ideological echo chambers”. More than this, it is worth considering what value one would place on having somewhere online like Wikipedia – and unlike many other of the world’s top ten websites – where it is completely, ruthlessly transparent in how pages are put together so that you can see: when edits were made; and by whom; and so that edits can always be checked, challenged and corrected if need be. After all, all edits to a Wikipedia page are recorded in its View History which includes which account or IP address made the edit along with a date, time and edit summary. Importantly, these entries in the View History are all permanent links so that different versions of the page can be compared and, ultimately, so a page can always be reverted back to its last good state if any unhelpful edits are ever made.
Indeed, the process of researching and writing a Wikipedia article demonstrates ‘how the sausage is made’ – how knowledge is created, curated and contested online – and asks students as part of their research to consider what constitutes a reliable source. In this way, students can be introduced to the pros and cons of searching a variety of databases as part of discussions on information and media literacy. Ultimately, whether it is a news article, journal article or Wikipedia article one should always evaluate what one is reading. That much has always been true. Wikipedia, for its part, has as its policy that no Wikipedia page should be cited in an academic paper. Rather Wikipedia considers itself a tertiary source; an encyclopedia of articles made up from citations from high quality published secondary sources. If one cites anything it is these sources that one should cite, not Wikipedia itself. In this way, Wikipedia reframes itself as useful place for pre-researching a topic in order to orientate oneself before delving into the scholarly literature. Hence, it is not the endpoint of research but the beginning; the digital gateway to academic research. In this way, it can then be seen as a valuable resource in itself. 2016 research confirmed that 87.5% of students were using it in this way; in “an introductory and/or clarificatory role” as part of their information gathering and research and finding it ‘academically useful’ in this context. Now in its seventeenth year, Wikipedia has approaching 5.7 million articles in English with about ten edits per second across all Wikimedia projects and nearly 500 articles created each day. As the largest reference work on the internet, it is simply too big to fail now and too important a source of information for the world. Consequently, Wikipedia has realized this and has taken out an endowment to ensure it exists it perpetuity.
Within the boundaries of Wikipedia editing guidelines of notability, reliability, and verifiability, it can prove to be a valuable resource in education. Editing Wikipedia articles builds a number of key skills. It encourages digital creation and digital collaboration skills. It builds legal research skills through finding relevant sources. Most of all, the ability to synthesize the research in an accessible manner for a non-legal audience is an unique but incredibly valuable skill for any law student. What is amazing about editing and creating Wikipedia articles is that the articles it allows for dialogue and improvement over the article through collaboration with other editors.
Indeed, it was the ‘realness’ and collaborative element of the assignment that appealed to students on the Reproductive Biology Hons. programme along with seizing a rare opportunity to communicate medical knowledge to a lay audience. Being able to communicate to a non-specialist audience is a key skill for new medics just as communicating legal knowledge is a key skill for new entrants to the legal profession.
For History undergraduates, it was the opportunity to improve the public’s understanding of history in a way that was active and not just passively receiving knowledge. More than this, it was recognizing that people’s understanding of the diversity of history would not be improved until staff and students actively engaged with addressing these gaps in representation; particularly in underrepresented areas such as social history, gender history and queer history.
A Wikipedia assignment isn’t just another essay or presentation that students may never return to, but something that has actually been created; a way of demonstrating the relevance of a student’s degree and communicating their scholarship in a real-world application of teaching and learning. Beyond this, the experience of a Wikipedia assignment at Bucknell University was that:
“at the close of the semester, students said that simply knowing that an audience of editors existed was enough to change how they wrote. They chose words more carefully. They double-checked their work for accuracy and reliability. And they began to think about how best they could communicate their scholarship to readers who were as curious, conscientious, and committed and as they were”.
Once the article becomes live on Wikipedia and indexed in Google’s top five results, students realise that there is agency to sharing their scholarship with the world. By way of example, Reproductive Biology Honours student Áine Kavanagh’s scrupulously researched a brand new article on high-grade serous carcinoma, one of the most deadly and most common forms of ovarian cancer. This article, including over sixty references and open-licensed diagrams Áine herself created, has now been viewed over 33,000 times since it was published in September 2016; adding a well-referenced source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community. Hence, rather than students’ work being disposed of at the end of an assignment, it can become a community project that can then be added to and improved over time; either by the students themselves or by other editors anywhere around the world. This has been a key motivator for students taking part in Wikipedia projects at the University of Edinburgh.
Of these other editors, there are some 2000+ WikiProjects on Wikipedia where editors come together to focus on a particular area of Wikipedia because they are passionate about the subject and/or have expertise in that area. If you check the Talk page of an article on Wikipedia you will see the WikiProject that has been assigned to ‘look after’ the article. In this way, content on Wikipedia is monitored and curated by a team of subject specialists; amateur enthusiasts and professionals alike. WikiProject Law aims to organise the law-related articles that consist of defining concepts spanning jurisdictions. There is a need for more articles focused on Scots law and there is scope to start a WikiProject to organise articles regarding Scots law.
There can be a number of applications within the law school. A Wikipedia assignment can be run in a single afternoon or over the course of an entire semester. It can be done as individual work, paired work or group work. Starting small and building up over time has proven a sensible methodology although best practice has been developed over a number of years at the university and elsewhere if bolder approaches are warranted.
It can be a formative assessed from a student perspective, it should be noted that if software seems too difficult to learn, students may feel like it is not worth the formative assessment and that it should be summative in nature. Indeed, recent experience is that students have been enthused to take part in Wikipedia assignments and put great efforts in to complete the assignment so receiving some feedback on their efforts always goes some way to ensuring they are fully satisfied by the experience: be it a group discussion; using a Wikipedia marking rubric; individual assessment; peer assessment; blogging their reflections on the project; or providing an oral presentation. The timing of the assignment may also help ensure its success. If it is assigned during a time of the term where other summative assessments may be due then the students may be more strategic in where they place their priorities.
Hence, past experience at the University of Edinburgh has suggested that a Wikipedia assignment incorporating such elements as students having discussions around information literacy and learning how to edit/ how to use a new form of educational technology may work best in the first semester as part of inducting the students into good digital research habits for the rest of the year before the course programme becomes busier in the second and third semesters. World Christianity MSc students and Psychology undergraduate students have also reported in recent interviews how the experience of adding references to Wikipedia was both a motivating and “very exciting” moment for them; partly because of the “slick” way Wikipedia allows you to add citations easily and partly because of the fact they were able to draw from relevant news articles and bring them together with books and journal articles (and more) to holistically convey the subject they were writing about.
In terms of how hard or difficult Wikipedia editing now is, Wikipedia has a new WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) Visual Editor interface which is easy to learn in an hour and just takes a little practice. It makes use of dropdown menus much like one experiences in word processing applications such as Microsoft Word and WordPress blogging and has been described variously as “super easy”, “fun”, “really intuitive” and “addictive as hell.”
There is also scope for a Wikipedia assignment to form a proportion of the summative element of the course as they have done on the World Christianity MSc. It should be noted that contributions made to Wikipedia are not static, but rather they are picked up by other Wikipedia editors to improve the reliability of the site. In educational contexts, this could be seen negatively but students have intimated that they like their work surviving beyond the life of the assignment and becoming a community project that can be added to over time. Beyond this, students can download their finished pages as a pdf, create books of their finished articles and, because all edits are recorded as permanent links in the View History of a page, they will always have a permanent link to their version of the page, no matter what changes are made to improve or expand it by other editors.
Wikipedia is an useful source but it can never replace formal legal education which teaches specialist knowledge, analytical skills, ethical standards, and importantly impart a love of democracy and justice. Wikipedia in legal education will only supplement these activities.
 McMahon, Connor; Johnson, Isaac; and Hecht, Brent (2017). The Substantial Interdependence of Wikipedia and Google: A Case Study on the Relationship Between Peer Production Communities and Information Technologies.
The collaboration with the School of Chemistry this year came about because it was suggested I should meet Dr. Michael Seery, Reader in Chemistry Education, on a completely different subject; his work with digital badges. During the tail end of the conversation, Michael expressed a certain scepticism about Wikipedia being used in academic contexts and I took the opportunity (and great delight) in proving him wrong… or at least in providing him with what I saw as a more informed approach to Wikipedia’s role in the creation, curation and dissemination of knowledge globally.
I can’t be sure what it was during that brief exchange that prompted Michael to start his own investigations yet investigate he did. And it resulted in his epic Twitter rant and this blog post re-appraising Wikipedia’s role in chemistry education*.
After our meeting and discussions, it was as a process of writing his first Wikipedia article on the English chemist Mildred May Gostling, and seeing the work involved, that he began to move “closer to the light“. (His words not mine). The fact that Michael was able to move from sceptic to activist and teach himself how to create such a page within the space of an evening should evidence how much easier editing Wikipedia has become in the last 2-3 years with the new Visual Editor interface making it possible to pick up the basics of Wikipedia editing in as little as 25 minutes.
*NB: Before I get carried away and completely misrepresent Michael, this was no Road to Damascus volte-face on his part. I prefer to think of it as a rational educator responding to rational arguments; making connections between the work he does and the work of the Wikimedia community. For the record, a certain amount of (healthy) scepticism is fine. An unhealthy quasi-prejudiced scepticism is a whole other kettle of fish. In any case, I’ll always make the case that an informed approach to engaging with Wikipedia trumps pretending it doesn’t exist each and every time.
It was Michael who brought the Letter of 19 to my attention. I confess I had not heard of the nineteen British women chemists who petitioned the Chemical Society in 1904 to afford women the same basic rights of Fellowship as their male counterparts. Shamefully, only a handful of the nineteen were represented on Wikipedia this Summer, the world’s number one information site. Hence, if providing more Women in STEM role models helps show that STEM careers are not just viable but something to be emulated then ensuring these fabulously notable women & their achievements were represented on Wikipedia had to be the #1 focus for our editing event for Ada Lovelace Day. (And it didn’t hurt that one of the 19, Ida Freund, had invented the Periodic Table of cupcakes as a teaching tool… which over a hundred years later would help inspire & fuel our editors while they worked).
Happily, as a result of last week’s cupcake-fuelled editathon event, ALL nineteen of the signatories to the petition are now represented on Wikipedia. In addition, we also now have a brand new article about the 1904 petition itself where you can access all of the nineteen biographies.
Wikipedia is a concept that shouldn’t work when you think about it.
A free online encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, crowd-sourced from volunteers. Yet work it does, miraculously so. It’s always been predicated on the notion that more people want to good than harm. And this is borne out by my own experience of editors and, perhaps more importantly, by research which found that only 7% of edits can be considered vandalism; meaning 93% is well-intentioned.
The 5th most popular website in the world receives 17 billion pageviews a month and 7,000 new articles are created each day. A recent article by WikiProject Medicine(recommended reading) found that Wikipedia is a source of health information for half to nearly three-quarters of physicians and more than 90% of medical students. It is also estimated to be 1,500 times more cost-effective than traditional ways of spreading information such as presenting at academic conferences. With recent analysis showing that people spend more time on Wikipedia’s mobile site than any other news or information site, issues of inaccuracy or under-representation matter.
But they can only be solved by greater engagement. Of the 80,000 regular contributors to Wikipedia, only 3,000 are considered ‘very active’ – meaning a community the size of the village of Kinghorn in Fife is often left to curate the world’s knowledge. Having more eyes on articles improves those articles immeasurably. That’s why it is so important to address areas of under-representation, to involve subject specialists, and to share the (often pay-walled) knowledge universities possess. Only then can Wikipedia begin to get anywhere close to truly being the sum of all human knowledge.
And people do respond to this call-to-arms. Correcting systemic bias and areas of under-representation has motivated many to help create and improve articles since the Edinburgh residency began in January 2016. I am convinced it also motivated Michael Seery to contribute and his advocacy, in turn, helped bring in many others within the School of Chemistry.
More generally, the lack of female Wikipedia editors is a clear & ongoing concern – with numbers routinely under 15% this skews the content on Wikipedia in much the same way. Two years ago, the number of biographies on Wikipedia about notable women was roughly 15% too. Thankfully, there are editors all around the world determined to address this. WikiProject Women in Red is the second most active WikiProject on Wikipedia (out of some 2000+ WikiProjects) and its editors are motivated to turn red-linked articles about notable women which don’t yet exist into blue clickable links which do. As such they have been hugely successful in helping correct this systemic bias and the number of female biographies has shifted; currently standing at 17.12%. So moving in the right direction but still a long way to go to achieving gender parity.
Issues of fairness and representation are felt keenly. Changing the way stories are told matters. That’s why it is so amazing to see people engage with Wikipedia; to see articles like the 1904 petition be created; to see new role models be uncovered and (hopefully) inspire new generations. 65% of our editathon attendees last year were women and, while I haven’t totted up the latest figures, I can tell you that this trend has not changed one iota this year.
“Hello, this isn’t a very Wikipedian comment but I just wanted to thank you personally for creating an entry for my motherAnn Katharine Mitchell. She is in residential care with Alzheimers, serene and contented, and largely lives in the past. She was told recently that she had a Wikipedia entry and was flattered and delighted to see it (I’ve now made some revisions). It isn’t the purpose of your editing to give the subjects pleasure, of course, but thanks for doing so!”
Michael himself created articles for two of the 19 including the British chemist, Margaret Seward. This article was first drafted by a participant (User:ActuallyDutch14) at a Royal Society of Chemistry event this Summer but, as sometimes happens, never finished. After writing the 1904 petition article, Michael simply took the half-finished article on Margaret Seward and helped complete it using information provided in an excellent source identified by Alice White, Wikimedian in Residence at the Wellcome Library, and ordered into the University of Edinburgh’s Murray Library by Rowena Stewart, Academic Support Librarian: ‘Chemistry was Their Life: Pioneer British Women Chemists, 1880–1949’ by Marelene Rayner-Canham and Geoff Rayner-Canham.
To do my bit, I reached out to the various universities these 19 brilliant women chemists were working at around the turn of the century including: Royal Holloway College; Bangor University; Bristol University; University of Manchester; Girton College and Newnham College in Cambridge; the University of Zurich; University College London; and Somerville College in Oxford. So far, I have been extremely impressed by the responses I have received in helping illustrate these new pages with images provided from their archives.
We already have a picture supplied by Royal Holloway Archives of Mildred May Gostling’s study and Royal Holloway are also looking to provide the group image of Elizabeth Eleanor Field at the School of Chemistry (below). Somerville College in Oxford have today provided a first class image of Margaret Seward taken in 1885 when she must have been 21 years old. Wikipedia articles with images are at least 20-30% more likely to be read but somehow an image on a biography article, like Seward’s, can also make that person come to life and seem that little bit more real.
Many institutions will often try to sell such images in their collections as revenue generation is such an ingrained, and persuasive, model. Yet it is not the only model and it is not only reason to share images. Sharing images, even low resolution images, for the rest of the world to engage and learn about a person or subject is, more often than not, hugely rewarding in of itself. Especially with the global reach that Wikipedia delivers.
Looking at the newly uploaded picture of Margaret Seward generously shared on her Wikipedia page, which itself didn’t exist until a week ago, and thinking of all the people involved in the article’s creation who gave of themselves to tell her story over a hundred years later, it really does make me marvel both at Margaret’s life & achievements AND the kindness of strangers in bringing her story to the world’s attention.
I recently wrote 3 articles of the 19 petitioners and was struck both by my increasingly difficulty to find sources and by the following passage from ‘Chemistry was their life’:
“Of the early women research workers in traditional areas of chemistry the three most productive in the period before 1905 were Aston and Micklethwait at University College, London, and Fortey at University College, Bristol. None of these, or indeed any of the slightly later and notably productive women chemists such as Marsden, Renouf, Alice Emily Smith or Isaac, produced a substantial body of independent work. Most of their publications are joint with eminent male co-authors, and almost the only records of their research careers are those co-authored papers in the technical journals. They appear, therefore, in the role of assistants rather than partners. Micklethwait, the most outstanding in terms of number of co-authored publications, was described by her obituarist as being ‘of a modest and retiring disposition’, which ‘was reflected in her preference for working in collaboration rather than striking out on lines of her own’.
Their records of joint publications would seem to suggest that, generally speaking compared with the women biochemists, most of the women researchers in established areas of chemistry were of a similar ‘modest and retiring disposition’ – a curious coincidence….
Both Freund and Thomas, two other life-long professional academics in traditional areas chemistry, are remembered as teachers rather than as researchers: Thomas’s original work was all collaborative, and Freund’s most important publication was her classic textbook. Thus, for the most part, British women of this period who were interested in doing research in the chemical sciences at anything beyond the assistant level generally found their opportunities in areas other than the established branches of the field. A similar pattern has been noted in the careers of American women chemists of the turn of the century…
The difficulties encountered by women chemists in establishing themselves as independent workers and being recognized as such are emphasized further by comparisons with fields other than biochemistry. In geology, for instance, a discipline in which in Britain during the late nineteenth century there were less than half as many women active in research as in chemistry, several women made major independent contributions, which were recognized by the Geological Society by the award of notable honours (not-withstanding the fact that women were not accepted as Fellows of the Society until 1919).
…..It is also the case that of these seven prominent women scientists only four held salaried positions…. Ogilvie Gordon, Donald and Sargant were independent research workers, living on family funds in a manner more typical of the ‘amateur’ male scientists of an earlier era, and not competing for salaried positions despite life-long commitments to first class scientific work.
Despite professional recognition by their peers and notable honours, these scientists, the ablest of the women researchers in their fields, were on the very margins of the scientific community as far as consideration for such positions was concerned. Nevertheless, they and the women biochemists whose careers are outlined above did achieve success as independent researchers. Corresponding success and recognition by the established chemical community for women in traditional areas of chemistry is hard to find.”
The context in which these women made these achievements makes them all the more remarkable.
With about 17 billion page views every month, it’s safe to say that most of us have heard of Wikipedia and maybe even use it on a regular basis. However, most people don’t realise that Wikipedia is the tip of the iceberg. Its sister sites include a media library (Wikimedia Commons), a database (Wikidata), a library of public domain texts (Wikisource), and even a dictionary (Wiktionary) – along with many others, these form the Wikimedia websites.
While the content is all crowd-sourced, the Wikimedia Foundation in the US maintains the hardware and software the websites run on. Wikimedia UK is one of dozens of sister organisations around the globe who support the mission of the Wikimedia websites to share the world’s knowledge.
Today, Wikipedia is the number one information site in the world, visited by 500 million visitors a month; the place that students and staff consult for pre-research on a topic. And considered, according to a 2014 Yougov survey, to be trusted more than the Guardian, BBC, Telegraph and Times. Perhaps because its commitment to transparency is an implicit promise of trust to its users where everything on it can be checked, challenged and corrected.
Wikimedia at an ancient university
The Edinburgh residency
In January 2016, the University of Edinburgh and Wikimedia UK partnered to host a Wikimedian in Residence for twelve months. This residency marks something of a paradigm shift as the first in the UK in supporting the whole university as part of its commitment to skills development and open knowledge.
Background to the residency
The University of Edinburgh held its first editathon – a workshop where people learn how to edit Wikipedia and start writing – during the university’s midterm Innovative Learning Week in February 2015. Ally Crockford (Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Scotland) and Sara Thomas (Wikimedian in Residence at Museums & Galleries Scotland) came to help deliver the ‘Women, Science and Scottish History’ editathon series which celebrated the Edinburgh Seven; the first group of matriculated undergraduate female students at any British university.
“The striking thing for me was how quickly colleagues within the University took to the idea and began supporting each other in developing their skills and sharing knowledge amongst a multi-professional group. This inspired me to commission some academic research to look at the connections and networking amongst the participants and to explore whether editathons were a good investment in developing workplace digital skills.”– Melissa Highton – Assistant Principal for Online Learning.
This research, conducted by Professor Allison Littlejohn, found that there was clear evidence of informal & formal learning going on. Further, that “all respondents reported that the editathon had a positive influence on their professional role. They were keen to integrate what they learned into their work in some capacity and believed participation had increased their professional capabilities.”
Since successfully making case for hosting a Wikimedian in Residence, the residency’s remit has been to advocate for knowledge exchange and deliver training events & workshops across the university which further both the quantity & quality of open knowledge and the university’s commitment to embedding information literacy & digital literacy in the curriculum.
Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh – shared missions
Edinburgh was the first university to be founded with a ‘civic’ mission; created not by the church but by the citizens of Edinburgh for the citizens of Edinburgh in 1583. The mission of the university of Edinburgh is “the creation, curation & dissemination of knowledge”. Founded a good deal later, Wikipedia began on January 15th 2001; the free encyclopaedia is now the largest & most popular reference work on the internet.
Wikimedia’s vision is “imagine a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge”. It is 100% funded by donations and is the only non-profit website in the top ten most popular sites.
Addressing the knowledge gap
While Wikipedia is the free encyclopaedia that anyone can edit, not everyone does. Of the 80,000 or so monthly contributors to Wikipedia, only around 3000 are termed very active Wikipedians; meaning the world’s knowledge is often left to be curated by a population the size of a village (roughly the size of Kinghorn in Fife… or half of North Berwick). While 5.4 million articles in English Wikipedia is the largest of the 295 active language Wikipedias, it is estimated that there would need to be at least 104 million articles on English Wikipedia alone to cover all the notable subjects in the world. That means as of last month, English Wikipedia is missing approximately 99 million articles.
Less than 15% of women edit Wikipedia and this skews the content in much the same way with only 17.1% of biographies about notable women. The University of Edinburgh has a commitment to equality and diversity and our Wikimedia residency therefore has a particular emphasis on open practice and engaging colleagues in discussing why some areas of open practice do have a clear gender imbalance. In this way many of our Wikipedia events focused on addressing the gender gap as part of the university’s commitment to Athena Swan; creating new role models for young and old alike. Role models like Janet Anne Galloway, advocate for higher education for women in Scotland, Helen Archdale (journalist and suffragette), Mary Susan McIntosh (sociologist and LGBT campaigner) among many many more.
That’s why it is enormously pleasing that over the whole year, 65% of attendees at our events were female.
The residency has, at its heart, been about making connections. Both across the university’s three teaching colleges and beyond; with the city of Edinburgh itself. Demonstrating how staff, students and members of the public can most benefit from and contribute to the development of the huge open knowledge resource that are the Wikimedia projects. And we made some significant connections over the last year in all of these areas.
Inviting staff & students from all different backgrounds and disciplines to contribute their time and expertise to the creation & improvement of Wikipedia articles in a number of events has worked well and engendered opportunities for collaborations and knowledge exchange across the university, with other institutions across the UK; and across Europe in the case of colleagues from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine working with research partner labs.
Ultimately, what you wanted attendees to get from the experience was this; the idea that knowledge is most useful when it is used; engaged with; built upon. Contributing to Wikipedia can also help demonstrate research impact as there is a lot of work going on to ensure that Wikipedia citations to scholarly works use the DOI. The reason being that Wikipedia is already the fifth largest referrer of traffic through the DOI resolver and this is thought to be an underestimate of its true position.
Not just Wikipedia
Introducing staff and students to the work of the Wikimedia Foundation and the other 11 projects has been a key part of the residency with a Wikidata & Wikisource Showcase held during Repository Fringe in August 2016 which has resulted in some out-of-copyright PhD theses being uploaded to Wikisource, and linked to from Wikipedia, just one click away.
Wikisource is a free digital library which hosts out-of-copyright texts including: novels, short stories, plays, poems, songs, letters, travel writing, non-fiction texts, speeches, news articles, constitutional documents, court rulings, obituaries, and much more besides. The result is an online text library which is free to anyone to read with the added benefits that the text is quality assured, searchable and downloadable.
Wikidata is our most exciting project with many predicting it will overtake Wikipedia in years to come as the dominant project. A free linked database of machine-readable knowledge, Wikidata acts as central storage for the structured data of all 295 different language Wikipedias and all the other Wikimedia sister projects.
“How can you trust Wikipedia when anyone can edit it?”
This is the main charge levelled against involvement with Wikipedia and the residency has been making the case for re-evaluating Wikipedia and for engendering a greater critical information literacy in staff & students. And that’s the thing. Wikipedia doesn’t want you to cite it. It is a tertiary source; an aggregator of articles built on citations from reliable published secondary sources. In this way it is reframing itself as the ‘front matter to all research.’
Wikipedia has clear policy guidelines to help ensure its integrity.
Verifiability – every single statement on Wikipedia needs to be backed up with a citation from a reliable published secondary source. So an implicit promise is made to our users that you can go on there and check, challenge and correct the verifiability of any statement made on Wikipedia.
No original research – while knowledge is created everyday, until it is published by a reliable secondary source, it should not be on Wikipedia. The presence of editorial oversight is a key consideration in source evaluation therefore, however well-researched, someone’s personal interpretation is not to be included.
Neutral point of view – many subjects on Wikipedia are controversial so can we find common truth in fact? The rule of thumb is you can cover controversy but don’t engage in it. Wikipedians therefore present the facts as they exist.
Automated programmes (bots) patrol Wikipedia and can revert unhelpful edits & copyright violations within minutes. The edit history of a page is detailed such that it is very easy to revert a page to its last good state and block IP addresses of users who break the rules.
“What underlies Wikipedia, at its very heart, is this fundamental idea that more people want to good than harm, more people want to create knowledge than destroy, more people want to share than contain. At its core Wikipedia is about human generosity.” – Katherine Maher, Executive Director of the Wikimedia Foundation in December 2016.
This idea that more people want to good than harm has also been borne out by researchers who found that only seven percent of edits could be considered vandalism.
Wikipedia in the Classroom
Developing information literacy, online citizenship and digital research skills.
The residency has met with a great many course leaders across the entire university and the interactions have all been extremely fruitful in terms of understanding what each side needs to ensure a successful assignment and lowering the threshold for engagement.
Translation Studies MSc students have completed the translation of a Wikipedia article of at least 4000 words into a different language Wikipedia last semester and are to repeat the assignment this semester. This time asking students to translate in the reverse direction from last semester so that the knowledge shared is truly a two-way exchange.
World Christianity MSc students undertook an 11-week Wikipedia assignment as part of the ‘Selected Themes in the Study of World Christianity’ class. This core course offers candidates the opportunity to study in depth Christian history, thought and practice in and from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The assignment comprised of writing a new article, following a literature review, on a World Christianity term hitherto unrepresented on Wikipedia.
“When you hand in an essay the only people that generally read it are you and your lecturer. And then once they both read it, it kind of disappears and you don’t look at it again. No one really benefits from it. With a Wikipedia assignment, other people contribute to it, you put it out there for everyone to read, you can keep coming back to it, keep adding to it, other people can do as well. It becomes more of a community project that everyone can read and access. I really enjoyed it.” – Nuam Hatzaw, World Christianity MSc student.
Reproductive Biology Honours students in September 2015 researched, synthesised and developed a first-rate Wikipedia entry of a previously unpublished reproductive medicine term: neuroangiogenesis. The following September, the next iteration was more ambitious. All thirty-eight students were trained to edit Wikipedia and worked collaboratively in groups to research and produce the finished written articles. The assignment developed the students’ research skills, information literacy, digital literacy, collaborative working, academic writing & referencing.
One particular deadly form of ovarian cancer, High grade serous carcinoma, was unrepresented on Wikipedia and Reproductive Biology student Áine Kavanagh took great care to thoroughly research and write the article to address this; even developing her own openly-licensed diagrams to help illustrate the article. Her scholarship has now been viewed over sixteen thousand times adding an important source of health information to the global Open Knowledge community.
“It was a really good exercise in scientific writing and writing for a lay audience.As a student it’s a really good opportunity. It’s a really motivating thing to be able to do; to relay the knowledge you’ve learnt in lectures and exams, which hasn’t really been relevant outside of lectures and exams, but to see how it’s relevant to the real world and to see how you can contribute.” –ÁineKavanagh.
Following a successful multidisciplinary approach, including students and staff all collaborating in the co-creation & sharing of knowledge, the residency has been extended into a third year until January 2019. Twenty members of staff have also now been trained to provide Wikipedia training and advice to colleagues to help with the sustainability of the partnership in tandem with support from Wikimedia UK.
While also ensuring Wikipedia editing is both embedded in regular digital skills workshops, demystifying how to begin editing Wikipedia has been a core focus of the residency, utilising Wikipedia’s new easy-to-use Visual Editor interface. Over two hundred videos and video tutorials, lesson plans, case studies, booklets and handouts have been created & curated in order to lower the threshold for staff and students to be able to engage with the Wikimedia projects in the years ahead.
The way ahead
Ten years after Wikipedia first launched, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by the vice president of Oxford University of Press acclaiming that ‘Wikipedia had come of age’ and that it was time Wikipedia played a vital role in formal education settings. Since that article, the advent of ‘Fake News’ has engendered discussions around how best to equip students with a critical information literacy. For Wikipedia editors this is nothing new as they have been combatting fake news for years and source evaluation is one of the Wikipedian’s core skills.
In fact, there is increasing synchronicity in that the skills and experiences that universities and PISA are articulating they want to see students endowed with are ones that Wikipedia assignments help develop. The assignments we have run this year have all demonstrated this and are to be repeated as a result. The case for Wikipedia playing a vital role in formal education settings has never been stronger.
Is now the time for Wikipedia to come of age?
If not now, then when?
Postscript: All three assignments from 2016/2017 are continuing in 2017/2018 because of the positive feedback from staff and students alike.
These are being augmented with collaborations with:
two student societies; the History Society for Black History Month and the Translation Society on a Wikipedia project to give their student members much-needed published translation practice.
Library and University Collections to add source metadata from 27,000 records in the Edinburgh Research Archive to Wikidata and 20+ digitised theses to Wikisource
a further three in-curriculum collaborations in Digital Sociology MSc, Global Health and Anthropology MSc and Data Science for Design MSc.
the Fruitmarket Gallery and the university’s Centre for Design Informatics for a Scottish Contemporary Artists editathon.
A Litlong editathon as part of the AHRC ‘Being Human’ festival.
The School of Chemistry for Ada Lovelace Day to celebrate women in STEM.
the University Chaplaincy to mark the International Storytelling Festival.
Teeside University to run a ‘Regeneration’ themed editathon.
As we have shown, there are huge areas of convergence between the Wikimedia projects and higher education. The Edinburgh residency has demonstrated that collaborations between universities and Wikimedia are mutually beneficial and that Wikipedia plays a vitally important role in the development of information literacy, digital research skills and the dissemination of academic knowledge for the common good.
That all begins with engaging in the conversation. Building an informed understanding of the Wikimedia projects and the huge opportunities that working together create.
I attended OER16, my first OER conference, but did not present. I had my own side room, just off the main drag, where I could provide respite from the main programme and entertain the Wiki curious.
Mostly I fired out tweets, recorded sessions and observed. And, it has to be said, had a great time doing so.
This year’s OER17 Conference was a different kettle of fish. I felt there was a lot to say, and be said, so I ill-advisedly submitted four sessions (I retracted a fifth on ‘Wikimedia vs. the Right to Forgotten‘).
And our biases were laid out in the open this year, I think, because the theme was ‘The Politics of Open‘ and politics is, no getting away from it, deeply personal. ‘Shouting from the heart‘ was the mot juste. Perhaps because of this, or the steady supply of coffee and biscuits, the conference did seem that much fuller of warm embraces, smiles and laughter as much as critical discourse. People being good-natured with one another, huddling together in dark times, espousing what they held to be true. And this was not so much bonhomie as ‘bonfemie’ (doubtful this will catch on) because the conference had such a surfeit of brilliant articulate women forming its backbone with an all-female list of keynotes and plenary speakers. (The Arsenal fans in the pub next door would have appreciated such a strong backbone to their side no doubt.)
I still need to catch up on Thursday’s talks but here’s what I observed:
Passion. Logic. Playfulness. Qualities that, to my mind, are what education should be about.
Godwin’s Law (redefined) meant that Trexit had to be discussed at some point during the conference while calls to action and calls for solidarity were also asked and answered (“Let’s make copyright right right now“, “Repeal the 8th” and “#IWill” for instance).
And we came out of the two days feeling pretty upbeat that there may actually be a way through the woods, out of the “unenlightenment” and into the bright future of a Viv Rolfe and David Kernoghan chaired #OER18.
(I could be wrong but there may even have been a moment of demob happiness around the room watching David rise out his seat to announce we could call him #OER18 co-chair).
No mean feat anyway after a grim year.
In this respect, I think Maha Bali’s keynote was an inspired choice and really set the tone for the whole two days. If politics is personal then the act of gift-giving is personal too; imposing your choices on someone else; whether it is the ‘gift’ of an open educational resource or the ‘gift’ of your elder brother buying you a Pixies CD for your birthday when he had the only CD player in the house and you’d never heard of the Pixies at that point. (He gave me a cassette copy in the end and kept the CD).
I’m grateful to Maha for the reminder of my brother’s wiliness but also that the best quality an educator has (beyond passion, logic and playfulness) is empathy.
Being able to empathise with other learners and considering how they can best access learning materials and the kinds of barriers they come up against is critical in OEP. You may think you’re being inclusive but we are too often trapped in our own worldview, traveling those same over-trammelled thought pathways; unable to see that our solutions aren’t really solutions at all or understand, or even acknowledge, the challenges of access or licensing others face; the obstacles they may have to overcome; the risks they may have to take.
“Self-absorption in all its forms kills empathy, let alone compassion. When we focus on ourselves, our world contracts as our problems and preoccupations loom large. But when we focus on others, our world expands. Our own problems drift to the periphery of the mind and so seem smaller, and we increase our capacity for connection – or compassionate action.”
― Daniel Goleman, Social Intelligence: The New Science of Human Relationships
So that’s my takeaway:
Be less goat.
Be more empathetic bear.
Cheers to Josie, Alek, Maren and the rest of the ALT team.
Two very different events took place in May 2014. As many will recall with great sadness, the Glasgow School of Art’s Mackintosh building, often considered Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece, was severely damaged by fire when “a canister of expanding foam” used in close proximity to a hot projector, caused flammable gases to ignite. Since that time, conservation efforts have been ongoing to reopen the Mackintosh building in 2018.
Elsewhere in May 2014, the Google Spain case was being heard at the European Union Court of Justice.
The Right to be Forgotten (GDPR).
The ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (RTBF) was actualised by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) following its ruling in May 2014 in Google Inc. vs. Agencia Espanola de Proteccion de Datos (aka the Google Spain case). The court ruled that personal information about a Spanish citizen, Mario Costeja Gonzalez, relating to his home being repossessed in 1998 could be removed from search engine results and that any EU citizen could apply to search engines to request that certain links be removed where they are “inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant”. This controversial ruling, has since become the key pillar, Article 17, of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) set to become law automatically in every EU member state on 25th May 2018 (Ruaraidh, 2016).
The ruling affects not only search engines but any organisation that hosts EU citizens’ information or does business in the EU. (Werfel, 2016). Google’s reaction to the ruling was to de-list search results from the domain extension the delisting request originated from (e.g. Google.de for Germany and Google.fr for France). However, the results could still easily be seen if you utilised a different domain extension; such as Google.com. As a result, France slapped a $112,000 fine on Google for its refusal to remove results outside of France. Consequently, Google now utilises geolocations to determine which country the searcher is searching from and de-lists all affected search results accordingly, regardless of domain extension; thereby “obeying the letter of the law, if not the spirit.”(Tarantola, 2016).
Importance of the Case:
The case has been described as a breakthrough in data protection leading to “a brave new world” (Ruaraidh, 2016) while, at the same time, trampling the ‘right to know’ and marking “the beginning of the end of the global internet, where everyone has access to the same information.” (Granick in Toobin, 2015)
I find the ‘Right to be Forgotten’ as a central pillar of the GDPR a really fascinating subject. The arguments on both sides are really pertinent ones for right now: the ‘right to be respected’ (Ruaraidh, 2016) or ‘right to privacy’ on the one hand versus freedom of information or ‘the right to know’ on the other. Not least because Toobin (2014)’s article in The New Yorker showed both the risks of having a ‘right to be forgotten’ which can be abused (e.g. a Croatian pianist asking for a bad review in the Washington Post to be de-listed) versus the case of the Catsouras family in the USA who were the subject of a chapter in Werner Herzog’s new movie ‘Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected world’(2016). The Catsouras case involves a family where their teenage daughter tragically died in a car crash. Mr. & Mrs. Catsouras, along with the daughter’s siblings, had a memory of their daughter that they held on to which was shattered when the police crime scene photographs, taken by the Californian Highway Patrol, somehow came into the public domain and went viral. Suddenly Mr. & Mrs. Catsouras were confronted with graphic images of their daughter’s body decapitated in the fatal accident. So far their attempts to get the pictures de-listed or removed from the internet have been thwarted because the US has no ‘right to be forgotten’ so the fact the GDPR includes it as its central pillar, Article 17, means that the father, Christos Catsouras has said the European Court of Justice ruling represented a “broader victory. “I cried when I read about that decision,” he told me. “What a great thing it would have been for someone in our position. That’s all I wanted. I would do anything to be able to go to Google and have it remove those links.”(Toobin, 2014).
Google processes 90% of searches in Europe (Fioretti, 2014) and has reviewed in excess of 1.5 million webpages, de-listing 40% of them across Europe (Lumsden 2016); effectively creating a library where book titles are removed from the searchable catalogue. The books are still there “but their existence would be unknown and therefore, their access made more difficult.“(Gratton, 2016).
Wikimedia understandably are not a fan of what the Right to be Forgotten means in practice:
“Accurate search results are vanishing in Europe with no public explanation, no real proof, no judicial review, and no appeals process… the result is an Internet riddled with memory holes – places where inconvenient information simply disappears.”(Tretikov in Fioretti, 2014).
While Google claim the CJEU ruling forces them into a role they are uncomfortable with i.e. deciding what is & is not included in their ‘card catalogue’ (Walker in Toobin, 2015); others maintain that Google’s role has always been more than passive intermediary; therefore “if you’re going to be in the business of search then you need to take on privacy obligations.” (Rutenberg in Toobin, 2015). Forcing private companies to become judge & jury on public searching can hardly be ideal however; especially when Google notifying affected sites can, ironically, increase public scrutiny through what’s been termed ‘the Streisand effect’.
The GDPR will certainly toughen the penalties for non-compliance of these privacy obligations. Previously, £500,000 was the maximum penalty in the UK for breaching privacy rules. Now organisations will be penalised 4% of their turnover, or twenty million Euros, whichever is greater (Davidson, 2016). Organisations, therefore, will need to know & understand the data they hold on individuals in much stricter way. For some, this is a triumph, heralding a new ‘right to be respected’ (Ruaraidh, 2016). Others see it as Balkanizing the internet; resulting in a race to the bottom to see which country’s laws can apply the most pressure on Google (Zittrain in Toobin, 2015).
The debate over freedom of information vs. the right to privacy will continue to be a source of heated debate. While IM professionals should be very wary of Right To Be Forgotten compromising a record’s integrity & trustworthiness, tighter data protection protocols for UK organisations are likely to become the norm from here on.
Advice from the Information Commisioner’s Office, and independent legal firms, is to start planning your approach to GDPR compliance now (Rustici, 2016). The 2018 deadline is not far away for an institution the size of Edinburgh University to get prepared for with 37,510 students (2015/2016 Student Factsheet) and 13,818 staff (Sept. 2016 HR factsheet). While Brexit creates great uncertainty on the UK’s adherence to EU laws, the likelihood is that, regardless of Brexit, UK Higher Education Institutions will still have to comply with the GDPR. (Rustici, 2016)
Google could, post Brexit, lobby the British court not to adhere to RTBF in the UK however the ICO are advocating the terms of the Data Protection Act (1998) be extended as a way of ensuring UK organisations adopt a stricter data protection strategy more in line with GDPR (Lambe, 2016). While research is currently exempted by the GDPR, Edinburgh University would appear to still be bound to it in that it processes personal data of EU subjects. Therefore, the university will have to ensure it puts a plan in place ensuring a culture of ‘privacy by design’. (McCall, 2016).
This means implementing the ICO’s 12 steps including: designating a Data Protection Office; reviewing rules governing data erasure & portability; getting I.T. to map out & review the data processes throughout the university and how data is shared with 3rd parties; liaising with HR to raise awareness of data protection throughout the university. Reviews of data protection policies and how consent is given & recorded. Data breach protocols will have to be tightened up and any breach must be reported to the ICO within 72 hours. Subject Access Requests will no longer be charged for and must be responded to within a month.
Ultimately, the university may need to ensure it is far more familiar with its data processes & its data protection strategies than it is at present. This may mean that they will better understand the value of the data that it does keep but it is likely that, in seeking to avoid liability, they will err on the side of increased erasure of data rather than less; resulting in ‘premature forgetting’ (Sartor, 2016). The balancing act remains a delicate one but it is something for ‘custodians of the record‘ to prepare for in their increasingly pivotal role.
“If the record is to mean anything, now and in the future, it has to have integrity, intactness, trustworthiness, and that can’t be the case if individual people have the opportunity or right or authority to pick and choose and prune and primp the way they are portrayed.” (Joseph Janes, 2016, American Libraries)
Meanwhile…. at the Glasgow School of Art Archives
While organisations around the UK prepare for the GDPR coming in 2018, the Glasgow School of Art archives had to move following the Mackintosh fire to take up residence in their new temporary home of The Whisky Bond site until the Mackintosh building reopens in 2018.
The World War One Roll of Honour Project
Thankfully, the Glasgow School of Art’s WW1 Roll of Honour survived the fire.
GSofA’s First World War Roll of Honour was designed and made by former GSA student Dorothy Doddrell in 1925 to commemorate the efforts of GSA staff, students and governors who served in WW1.
With the support of the Centenary Memorials Restoration Fund, it also underwent conservation in 2014.
The memorial is now temporarily on display in GSofA’s Reid Building where it will remain until it can be reinstated in the Mackintosh Building following the completion of restoration work to the building.
The Roll of Honour takes the form of an illuminated parchment in paint and gold leaf set within a substantial copper and wood framed triptych.
Unlike most war memorials, the Roll of Honour records the names and regiments not only of those who died, but also of over 400 GSA staff, students and governors who served in the war.
A recently discovered advertisement placed in the Glasgow Herald on 1 November, 1920 shows that the School of Art required the support of the wider public (or at least the readership of the Glasgow Herald) in collating the necessary information in order to deliver a suitable memorial.
Researching the names on the WW1 Roll of Honour
In 2015 a research project, supported by a Scottish Council on Archives’ and Heritage Lottery Fund Skills for the Future traineeship, sought to explore and document the stories behind the names recorded on the Roll of Honour.
A team of volunteers is now continuing with this research, using original material from GSA’s rich archives and collections to create biographies of those staff and students who feature on the memorial. The resulting biographies have and will continue to be made available on the Archives and Collections online catalogue: www.gsa.ac.uk/archives.
How it worked
The investigation process begins with scouring the GSA’s student registers for any recorded instances relating to a listed name which may give an indication of the years they studied at the GSA, the classes they attended, which teachers they had, where they lived, what job they performed and so on.
Consulting a number of other sources: census records, birth certificates, death certificates, marriage records, medal cards, regiment histories, photographs as well as any notable artworks or architectural designs bearing their name.
I was a volunteer on the WW1 Roll of Honour project.
William Lindsay Renwick was one name on the roll of honour that I researched among many others: a University of Glasgow graduate, he undertook bookbinding classes at the Glasgow School of Art before becoming a professor of English Literature at Durham University and Edinburgh University where he was the founder of the School of Scottish Studies. William Lindsay Renwick fought at the Battle of Loos during World War One where he felt ‘like a ghost, an old ghost, sceptical and disillusioned.’”
Professor William Lindsay Renwick is commemorated on The Glasgow School of Art’s First World War Roll of Honour.
The research I undertook changed the way I viewed war memorials. It shouldn’t have but it did. I realised the name on the Roll of Honour was just one part and there was much more to be said: places lived in; jobs undertaken & where; family members; wives; children; the subjects they studied; their notable artworks; their achievements; the regiments they served in; the battles they fought in; the lives cut short and those lived afterwards; where they married; what they did; how they died. Uncovering the life story behind each name was detective work of the most rewarding kind.
As part of last week’s Samhuinn Wikipedia editathon to honour the dead, we created 16 new articles to remember notable lives & contributions; one of which was on William Lindsay Renwick who founded the School of Scottish Studies. Hence, while the debate about the Right to be Forgotten is an important one, it has to be balanced against the importance of remembering. And that’s where Wikipedia can play a vital role in ensuring digital provenance where the record is trustworthy, reliable and remembered.
Eugene Bourdon exhibition 5th November to 4th December 2016
From 5th Nov – 4th Dec the Glasgow School of Art Archives and Collections are actually holding an exhibition in GSA’s Reid Building of the work of GSA’s first professor of architecture Eugene Bourdon (see here for more info: http://gsapress.blogspot.co.uk/2016/07/the-gsa-to-mark-centenary-of-his-death.html). To accompany the exhibition the A&C team will be providing a series of lunchtime talks (dates to be confirmed), one of which will be about Eugene Bourdon (who died at the battle of the Somme) which you would be more than welcome to attend.
Kerr, J. (2016). What Is Search Engine: The Simple Question the Court of Justice of the European Union Forgot to Ask and What It Means for the Future of the Right to Be Forgotten. Chicago Journal of International Law 17(1), 217-243.
The 7th Open Educational Resources Conference, OER16: Open Culture, will be held on the 19th-20th April 2016 at the University of Edinburgh.
The vision for the conference is to focus on the value proposition of embedding open culture in the context of institutional strategies for learning, teaching and research. The conference will be chaired by Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at the University of Edinburgh, and Lorna Campbell, OER Liaison at the University of Edinburgh and EDINA Digital Education Manager.
And there will be a strongWikimedia UK presence at the event.
Jason Evans is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the National Library of Wales. He is also a professional genealogist with a wealth of experience in researching all aspects of Welsh family and local history. This residency will contribute towards the NLW’s aim of providing ‘Information for All’ and in turn will draw people back to the services and collections of the Library. Information about previous, ongoing, or future Wikipedia-National Library of Wales collaborations are updated regularly on the National Library of Wales project page.
Jason has worked closely with the Library to release over 15,000 images into the public domain via Wikimedia Commons and has held dozens of public events at the Library and through out Wales. Working closely with other cultural partners in Wales the aim has been encourage and facilitate increased open access across the sector by affecting policy change. Jason has also set-up and run a number of successful Wikimedia projects with the Library’s dedicated volunteer team. The residency is increasingly focusing on Wikipedia in the education sector and he has made steps towards embedding a Wikipedia based projects into the Welsh curriculum for 16-18 year olds and has proposed a series of talks for sixth form students about using Wikipedia responsibly. He has also helped several universities to use Wikipedia as vehicle for outreach and gender equality projects.
Sara Thomas is the Wikimedian in Residence for Museums Galleries Scotland, the national development body for the Scottish museums sector. She’s also an event manager and social/digital media trainer with experience in both the private and third sectors. Since January 2015 in this part time role she’s worked with around 80 cultural institutions to provide training, facilitate content upload and generally advocate for the use of open knowledge in a museums context. She’s trained 280 new users of Wikipedia, run 16 editathons, 20 training sessions and spoken at 25 seminars, workshops and conferences, taking in museums, libraries, and universities. A backstage pass event at Glasgow Museums brought some of the lesser-seen elements of Kelvingrove Museum, Kelvin Hall and the Riverside Museum to the Commons; an editathon dedicated to rent strike organiser and activist Mary Barbour contributed to the campaign for greater recognition of her work; and a recent series of editathons with the National Galleries of Scotland created biographies of key Scottish female artists missing from Wikipedia.
In the last two months of the project Sara will be working with Groam House Museum in Rosemarkie, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow Women’s Library and Govan’s Hidden Histories to bring Scotland’s rich cultural heritage to a wider audience.
Lucy Crompton-Reid joined Wikimedia UK as the new Chief Executive in October 2015, and is working with the staff team, board of trustees and wider Wikimedia community to develop a new strategy and business plan for the charity and to help shape the work of the programmes team. She will also be driving forward the organisation’s advocacy, communications and fundraising activities, and engaging new strategic partners. Lucy has worked in the cultural, voluntary and public sectors for nearly two decades, with past experience including senior roles at Arts Council England, British Refugee Council and the House of Lords. Most recently, she was Chief Executive of the national literature charity Apples and Snakes, England’s leading organisation for performance poetry and spoken word. Throughout her career, Lucy has had a particular focus on widening participation, and brings a strong commitment to access, learning and public engagement in her new role at Wikimedia UK.
Ewan McAndrew (yours truly)
An MA graduate in English & Modern History from the University of Glasgow, Ewan McAndrew went on to study Software Development at Glasgow Caledonian University before moving abroad to teach English. Ewan has taught in Japan, South Korea & Singapore which, in turn, has allowed him to travel throughout Asia, Australia, North America & South America.
A PGDE English & Media teacher for the last few years, Ewan has taught in various parts of Scotland and worked increasingly with heritage institutions, most recently with the Glasgow School of Art’s Archives team on their WW1 ‘Roll of Honour’ project.
Ewan is the current Wikimedian in Residence at the University of Edinburgh. Previous editathons have been on the ‘History of Medicine’ for Innovative Learning Week 2016, ‘Art & Feminism’ (with the National Galleries of Scotland & Sara Thomas), ‘Women in Art & Science’ for International Women’s Day 2016 and ‘Women in Espionage: Fact & Fiction’ for Spy Week 2016 in partnership with the English Literature and History departments at the University of Edinburgh.
Wikimedia at OER16
Sara Thomas, Lucy Crompton-Reid and Martin Poulter will all be presenting sessions at OER16.
The programme for OER16 (with details of these sessions) can be found here: OER16 website.
In addition, the following sessions will also be available to OER delegates.
1)Wikipedia Training 1.20-2pm 19/04/2016
Editing Wikipedia has never been easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia as easy as blogging or utilising MS Word. A 2014 Yougov survey found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.
One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.
Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.
Full training will be given – just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!
2)Wikipedia Editathon 2-3pm 19/04/2016 – Women in Art, Science & Espionage
Did you know that only 16% of biographies on Wikipedia relate to notable females?
Once training is completed,why not join us for an editathon to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Women in Art, Science & Espionage to put these skills into practice & help redress the balance?
Contributing to Wikipedia during an editathon can be about creating an entirely new page on Wikipedia (250 words minimum backed up by at least 3 references) or as simple as adding a citation or an image to an existing article or even just fixing a typo. Full training will be given at 1.20-2pm so feel free to join us for the editathon afterwards from 2-3pm or drop in to ask us questions about Wikipedia & its sister projects.
Just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!
3)Ask a Wikimedian: Drop-in clinic 1.20-2pm 20/04/2016
OER16 has a number of Wikimedians attending in Ewan McAndrew (Wikimedian in Residence for University of Edinburgh), Sara Thomas (Wikimedian in Residence for Museums & Galleries Scotland), Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University) and Jason Evans (Wikimedian in Residence for the National Library of Wales).
This lunchtime session will allow you to ask questions about their experiences & seek advice, be it on working with Wikipedia or its sister projects.
4)Wikisource Demonstration: 2pm-2.25pm 20/04/2016
Martin Poulter (Wikimedian in Residence for the Bodleian Library, Oxford University) will demonstrate how to get the best out of Wikisource. Wikisource is a multilingual project, started in November 2003, to archive a collection of free and open content texts. It is not only a superior format for storing classics, laws, and other free works as hypertext, but it also serves as a base for translating these texts. At the beginning, source texts in all languages (except Hebrew) were all on one wiki. However, Wikisource now has several editions in many individual languages.
NB: Please bring a laptop of tablet with you to allow you to navigate around Wikisource.
Editing Wikipedia has never been easier with the new WYSIWYG Visual Editor interface which makes editing Wikipedia as easy as blogging or utilising MS Word. A 2014 Yougov survey found that around two thirds of the British public trust Wikipedia more than traditional news outlets including the BBC, ITV, the Guardian and the Times.
One of the most visited websites worldwide, and now one of the most trusted, Wikipedia is a resource used by most university students. Increasingly, many instructors around the world have used Wikipedia as a teaching tool in their university classrooms as well.
Indeed, as the drive for scholarly research to become ever more Open Access gathers pace, Wikipedia will increasingly become the digital gateway to this research.
This will be a truncated training session from the one offered on 19th April but will introduce you to the basics of utilising the new Visual editor interface – just bring a laptop or tablet with you and start editing!
Hopefully see you there and you can meet the gang!
In visiting a lot of different people of places over the last two months, one question keeps cropping up: what is the difference between Wikimedian and Wikipedian?
Which is a fair question.
Ultimately, Wikimedia UK is the parent or umbrella body, a charitable non-profit foundation (the UK chapter of the global Wikimedia movement which has its HQ in San Francisco) which exists to support & promote Wikimedia’s projects in the UK: one of which happens to be its main open Knowledge project, Wikipedia.
Wikipediais the largest collection of free, collaborative knowledge in human history. Millions of people from around the world have written and added to Wikipedia since it was created in 2001: anyone can edit it, at any time. Wikipedia contains more than 35 million volunteer-authored articles in more than 290 languages. Every month, Wikipedia is viewed more than 15 billion times, making it one of the most popular sites in the world. The people who support it are united by the joy of knowledge, their passion and curiosity, and their awareness that we know much more together than any of us does alone.
What is the Wikimedia Foundation?
The Wikimedia Foundation is the non-profit organization that supports and operates Wikipedia and the other free knowledge projects. All of our work is guided by our mission to share the sum of all knowledge with every person in the world. We keep the websites fast, secure, and available. We support the community of volunteers who contribute to the Wikimedia projects. We make free knowledge accessible wherever you are — on your phone or laptop, on a boat in the South Pacific, or in the hills of Nepal. We help bring new knowledge online, lower barriers to access, and make it easier for everyone to share what they know.”
However, while Wikipedia draws the most attention, there are numerous ways where staff & students can get involved & directly contribute their knowledge & expertise to develop Wikimedia UK’s diverse range of projects.
Not just Wikipedia: Wikimedia UK’s diverse range projects (above).
Wikisource, for instance, is a ‘free content library of source texts’ with some 300,000+ source texts which anyone can use.
Wikimedia Commons is our media repository with over 30 million freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute to and re-use.
Wikibooks, an open-content textbooks collection that anyone can edit, has been utilised by some academic institutions (notably Greg Singh, lecturer in Communications, Media & Culture at the University of Stirling) as an assessed part of their courses where students work in research groups to contribute chapters to create a brand new textbook, the Digital Media & Culture Yearbook.
Wikidata, in particular, as Wikipedia’s newest sister project offers up a wealth of possibilities as a structured database of all human knowledge which is readable by humans and machines. For example, the Histropedia website makes good use of the data Wikidata harnesses in order to create visually stimulating & dynamic timelines: be it as straightforward as a timeline of University of Edinburgh alumni or something much more bespoke: such as a timeline of descendants of Robert the Bruce, who are female, and born in Denmark.
As the residency continues, I hope to explore each of these projects a bit further (and others besides) and see if any collaborations can be achieved which mutually benefit the university and Wikimedia in adding open knowledge content to these projects. So watch this space… and if you have any questions about any of the projects then let me know.
“The time has come,” the Walrus said. “To talk of many things.”
Exactly one month has flown by since I started my year-long residency at the University of Edinburgh as the new Wikimedian in Residence and I have not stopped to collect my thoughts. The starting of a new blog seems a good place to begin.
In starting this curiously titled new role at the University of Edinburgh, I am reminded how far we have come since I first began my undergraduate course at the University of Glasgow; when mobile phones and the internet were still very much in their infancy and social media (like blogs) and Wikipedia were still all to come.
This is now my third blog; following my WordPress blog (on film, tv & book reviews) and my travel blog covering my travels from Seoul (South Korea) to Glasgow (UK) via Canada, North America and South America. Like millions of others, I also have a Facebook account. It chose recently to ‘share a memory’ with me of the time, six years ago, I sat in the gardens outside Vina Undurraga, Santiago, Chile. In seeking to illustrate my first post with a picture to introduce myself, and until I can get a new picture taken of myself in my new surroundings, this picture seems a good one.
Prior to this picture, I had just completed two years’ teaching in Japan & South Korea and I had the option to return directly home to the UK or my employers would also pay for me to fly the equivalent distance elsewhere and I could indulge my curiosity and take the scenic route home.
I chose the scenic route.
The picture shows me mid-trip in Chile after visiting Vancouver, Seattle, San Francisco, Peru and Bolivia and Chile. I had just visited the observatory at Cerro Mammalluca (with the best conditions for stargazing in the world), stood next to a Moai statue from Easter Island, visited Pablo Neruda’s house in Valparaiso and I had a trip traversing the Andes into Patagonia to look forward to.
It reminds me how rich and interesting the world is and how wonderful it is to share knowledge and experiences. I was able to travel from country to country, experience new cultures, stop off at libraries, museums, art galleries, see many natural wonders, learn new languages and read terrific books, travel guides and articles on Wikipedia in-between stops.
Since that time, as an English, History & Media teacher, I have been an advocate for lifelong learning and for Open Knowledge; for looking outward to the world and pooling & sharing our knowledge & experiences. In this way, I can think of no better role than a collaboration between Wikimedia UK and the University of Edinburgh to do just that.