Let me start off by saying that I love Wikipedia. I think it is an awesome example of communal knowledge production and revision. It provides the possibility (for the first time in history I might add) that it is not all the elite and the winners who get to tell the story. Anyone (with computer, internet access, and literacy... which I admit is somewhat limiting, but much less so than in the past) can publish information; anyone can tell their side of the story. And then we, together, decide if that telling sticks. We, together, decide if things need to be added.
The problem is that the "we" who participate in building and editing Wikipedia is not representative. It could be, but it currently isn't. At all. Check it out:
This is super important. If it is largely men who are posting and editing on Wikipedia, and they are posting and editing from the male perspective (and sometimes more heavily about stereotypically male interests) then it isn't really us, together, producing knowledge; it is the same old system of the privileged producing knowledge... not really that different than the hard cover encyclopedias published by the wealthy elite (I remember those; I'm old). But we have the opportunity to change whose voices are heard. We have the opportunity to participate in knowledge production. We have the opportunity to contribute to writing humanity's knowledge. That is exciting!
Alana Cattapan, in her article in Feminist Teacher called "(Re)Writing "Feminism in Canada": Wikipedia in the Feminist Classroom, challenges teachers to include assignments for editing Wikipedia articles into their syllabi. It's great article that talks about the importance of participation in Wikipedia. She covers way more than I can recount here, so you should read her article. For now, I'll just say that I'm going to respond to her call to action.
For my upper level Women's Studies course this fall, I am going to have students pick an article related to our course topics to edit and monitor throughout the semester. I don't have the details of this figured out yet, but I am super excited about the project, and I'll be excited to share some of their work with you! [Also, please let me know if you've done a similar project or have any suggestions for me!]
For now, though, I just want to send out a challenge to you, dear readers, to get involved in Wikipedia, especially if you are a woman or a minority... especially if your voice isn't often heard. We need you!
Seriously, go edit something. Claim your place as a producer of knowledge. It will be empowering to you, and it will contribute to the good of all of us!
Post a comment to let us know what articles you are editing. We'll be excited to support and collaborate with you.!