When news broke yesterday that Margaret Atwood is writing a sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, anyone who wished to know why this drew so much attention could visit Atwood’s Wikipedia page. There, they could read about her career, recurring themes in her work and their cultural contexts, film adaptations of her writings, and so much more that positions Atwood as a prominent cultural figure. The Wikipedia article is so informative thanks to the handiwork of National Women’s Studies Association member Dr. Jenn Brandt, a participant in our professional development course that trains subject-matter experts how to contribute their knowledge to Wikipedia.
Take a look at all that Dr. Brandt contributed to the article. Highlighted in purple here are Dr. Brandt’s edits. Before she came in and reworked both the article’s content and organization, it contained almost no information about Atwood’s career. Nor did it outline what influence her work has had in the American cultural and political landscape.
Perhaps most notable of Dr. Brandt’s contributions is the section on Atwood and feminism. Dr. Brandt is the Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program and an Assistant Professor of English at High Point University, positioning her perfectly to add such a perspective to a Wikipedia article about an author whose work holds such prominence in cultural discourse because of its feminist themes. Given that feminist activist groups have drawn on Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale over the past two years in political debate, documenting the real-world manifestations of Atwood’s influence is an important part of painting an accurate picture of her career. In Atwood’s announcement this week that she will be writing a sequel to her influential work, she nodded to this influence, saying that in addition to wanting to respond to fans’ desire for another book: “The other inspiration is the world we’ve been living in.”
Dr. Brandt took it upon herself to bring Atwood’s biography article up to Wikipedia’s second highest quality standard: that of Good Article. The process for designating an article of this quality requires a detailed back and forth with another editor to determine if the article meets requirements. Dr. Brandt made several more edits to the article through this rigorous feedback process and it has been accepted among the Wikipedia community as a comprehensive representation. In the last day, she has returned to the article to add information about the sequel – seven months after her course wrapped!
Atwood’s article receives a daily average of about 2,500 pageviews and has received more than 400,000 total since Dr. Brandt improved it. That’s a tangible impact that an individual has made for public knowledge. Become a Wiki Scholar yourself and learn how to edit in our unique courses. For more information about our current course offering, see bit.ly/NARAwiki.
Read about Dr. Brandt’s personal experience in our course and how she transferred her new skills to the classroom in this reflective piece.