Blog Post

Woman in a WikiWorld

I am a Wikipedia editor. This is a new endeavor I've taken on due to an amazing Professor who has inspired me as both a feminist and a digital humanist. Prior to taking Professor Koh's Feminist Theory course I had very minimal experience with Wikipedia. I used it for quick information on a subject of inquiry and quite frankly thought of it as altogether unreliable for academic and professional use. After being assigned a Wikipedia Editing Project in which I was asked to make edits to articles that fall under the Feminist or Women's Studies category, I was actually quite shocked that Wikipedia was being used in the classroom yet alone an integral part of the final project. 
I honestly never gave much thought to how edits were made or how the information on Wikipedia got there. After becoming a part of this network of editors- professionals, academics, and individuals interested and/or knowledgeable in a particular niche- my opinion has greatly changed. The information being shared is monitored from within and reliable citation is necessary for edits to remain. In my first few edits I had other editors contact me within a day about correct formatting of citations and a citation concern for a bit of information I added to one article. This was both intimidating and exciting to realize I was a part of a network of editors who were paying attention to what I was doing. It pushed me to strive for better edits, knowing that there was a community both noticing the good work I did but also anything that didn't meet their standards. 
It's exciting to do research for a community like Wikipedia rather than for a standard paper that only a professor will see. While some professors may be leery of such an assignment or underestimate the amount of work involved, editing Wikipedia proved to be much more daunting and intimidating than a standard paper purely in the fact that all edits were being monitored and were open to the public. Where a paper will most likely only be read by a single professor, these edits are documented on the web for all to see. While the stakes are high so are the rewards. There is much gratification in leaving your personal mark on something that will help others to learn.
I personally edited "Feminist Digital Humanities" which is so appropriate regarding this discussion about Wikipedia. Wikipedia can be an amazing forum for anyone to participate in Feminist Digital Humanities. This web-based collection of information is a place where the voice of women can be compounded and strengthened by archiving the works and lives of women and feminist ideas- which is exactly what my class did as we added information to the articles for various women, feminists, and feminist topics. It's one thing to study theory, but there's power in putting theory to practice.
As with many web-based academic forums and archives, Wikipedia has been accused of having a sexist bias running throughout its articles. This may be due to the lack of women editors. In an interview with Yael Kohen, "Confessions of a Female Tech Exec," published in the May '11 issue of Marie Claire, Sue Gardner, executive director of Wikimedia Foundations stated that a study they conducted showed that women only contribute to editing 13% of the articles on Wikipedia. She said the average editor is the young, white male. Without diverse representation in the editing community, there is a tendency for this gap to be reflected in an underrepresentation of a large group of people and concerns in the articles. This is exactly what Feminist Digital Humanities addresses and looks to repair. So while editing a couple articles on Wikipedia may seem like a trivial thing, I'm proud as a feminist and digital humanist to now add my voice to the WikiWorld. 

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