How we can improve equity on Wikipedia: reflections after NAAAS

By on March 1, 2018

How we can improve equity on Wikipedia: reflections after NAAAS

By on March 1, 2018

How we can improve equity on Wikipedia: reflections after NAAAS

Earlier this month, I spent a week in Dallas at the National Association of African American Studies & Affiliates Joint National Conference. Attendees came to present about and discuss African, African-American, Hispanic, Latinx, Asian, Native American, and Indigenous culture and history.

In February, as part of Black History Month, but also as part of our ongoing efforts to improve equity on Wikipedia, we’re highlighting student work to improve coverage of underrepresented topics on the site. Students have updated biographies of African-American women, improved articles about African-American theater and culture, and expanded coverage of art, economics, and politics. Students have made a real impact so far, but improving the world’s most looked-to online encyclopedic resource is an ever-pressing and on-going task.

The topics on Wikipedia with the most coverage often don’t overlap with topics related to populations that have been historically underrepresented in encyclopedic knowledge. And Wikipedia’s strongest editors (all volunteers) can face a number of barriers in improving these topic areas. First, it’s hard to find sources about underrepresented topics simply because few might exist! Second, most Wikipedia editors don’t have access to scholarly sources that discuss marginalized peoples, since those sources are often restricted behind paywalls. And third, the vast majority of editors are young, Western men with particular interests and expertise that may not overlap with areas on Wikipedia that need more attention.

That’s why Wiki Education supports classroom assignments where instructors ask their students to write much needed articles in their field. We also support academic departments and libraries in providing remote access to their research for Visiting Scholars who have the Wikipedia know-how. These Wikipedians can identify missing areas and generate well-referenced content through that connection.

We are looking to expand both of these programs in 2018 as part of our newest Future of Facts initiative, and would love to talk more with you about how your students, department, or university can participate. If you’re interested in learning more, please email us at contact@wikiedu.org.

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