When students bring a critical eye to Wikipedia, comparing its available content to their course readings, academic studies, and personal experiences, they’re often surprised at what information is missing. During their assignment to research a topic and write about it on Wikipedia, they remedy that information disparity.
In Annette Nierobisz’s course on Women, Crime, and Criminal Justice at Carleton College in spring 2016, students identified missing information about criminology and the justice system, then created articles on those overlooked topics. For example, students started the article about reproductive health care for incarcerated women in the U.S.. As more women are incarcerated in the United States, prisons must develop systems to care for pregnant women and their babies. But most prisons lack the proper resources to make this necessary shift. If Americans don’t know about issues like this plaguing incarcerated women, they are less likely to prioritize criminal justice reform as a political platform. By contributing information about the subject to Wikipedia, students brought Americans a step closer to understanding the research behind the issues.
Similarly, students adding accurate, accessible, and comprehensible legal information to Wikipedia are empowering citizens to understand the legal rights that impact their everyday lives. After all, most people don’t have access to law books, and, even if they do, they lack the legal prowess and education to understand the details. Most Americans do, however, have access to Wikipedia, which can summarize case law relevant to their communities. This is the power of a public resource like Wikipedia and why we need more criminology students to make sure as many communities as possible are represented.
This week, I’m at the Academy of Criminal Justice Science‘s annual meeting in Kansas City, MO. ACJS promotes criminal justice research and education, and the attendees are the ideal collaborators to bring their expertise and students to Wikipedia. If you are attending the conference, stop by the Wiki Education booth in the exhibit hall to find out how criminology and law students are working to inform citizens about their rights and laws.
Exhibit hall hours
- Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 9:00am–5:00pm
- Thursday, March 23, 2017, 9:00am–5:00pm
- Friday, March 24, 2017, 9:00am–2:00pm
If you’re interested in joining our program, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.