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Wikipedia Education: Participatory Culture in the Age of Information

Wikipedia Education: Participatory Culture in the Age of Information

 

This past August I was trained as a Wikipedia Campus Ambassador at Georgetown University. The Wikipedia Campus Ambassador Program at Georgetown is a part of the Wikipedia Global Education Program, which is designed to help fill in the knowledge gaps within the largest and most referenced encyclopedia in the world, Wikipedia. The program is partnered between the Wikimedia Foundation and Universities in the US and across the globe. Similarly to HASTAC, the Wikipedia Global Education Program encourages scholars to interact and contribute to a digital voluntary and decentralized interface. In an interview on participatory learning, Cathy Davidson, founder of HASTAC, notes, “What happens if you put all those people in conversation? What new insights emerge from interactions where the protocols for success are not scripted in advance?” Wikipedia edits are live and take place all over the world. Wikistream has created a visualization that reveals edits as they happen in real time. From this stream, you can see that new knowledge emerges at an unprecedented rate. Indeed, as users of Wikipedia, we expect that Wikipedia will have an article on just about anything. But what if there isn’t? This is what the Wikipedia Campus Ambassador program is designed for; to create a face to face meeting point between scholars and Wikipedia to discuss opportunities for knowledge growth.

This Fall Theresa Schlafly, my fellow co-worker at CNDLS and I are the Campus Ambassador’s for Adel’s Iskandar’s class New Media: Dissidence, Innovation, and Community in the Communication, Culture, and Technology department at Georgetown. The class is designed for graduate students to engage and participate with the Wikipedia community by contributing to an existing Wikpedia article of interest or creating their own Wikipedia article about a topic that has not been created yet. One way in which students can find articles or topic to contribute to is through the Wikipedia Project Directory. Wikiprojects are divided into broad categories, such as “Culture and the Arts” and “Geography,” and designed to bring editors with similar interests together.

Wikipedia editors follow the five pillars: (i) Wikipedia is an encyclopedia, a reference guide that list summaries of information, (ii) Wikipedia has a neutral point of view, (iii) Wikipedia is free content that anyone can edit and distribute, (iv) Wikipedians should interact in a respectful manner and assume good faith, (v) Wikipedia does not have firm rules besides the general principles here. Despite the loose rules that allow Wikipedia to function, there still remains a significant lack of diversity in the Wikipedia editing field. Jemima Kiss, writer at the Guardian, notes that “90% of editors are male.” Thus, one of the Wikipedia Global Education Program’s goals is to help bring more female editors and minorities into the Wikipedia world. I also believe that it is important to make sure that the topics and articles that are being highlighted or actively referenced are diverse as well. 

There have been questions about whether or not the citation format of Wikipedia should be expanded to incorporate citations that are not written, such as oral storytelling. The question is, how can a “notable,” and worthy topic be written about if there is no “written” citation to “prove” its existence? This is a question that the Wikipedia Global Education Program is addressing. The program encourages students to communicate with other Wikipedia articles about their topics of interest and collaborate in order to bring about new discourse and new ways of citing important phenomena. Even if you are not apart of the Wikipedia Global Education Program, I encourage you to contribute to Wikipedia -- as we all need to be mindful about who and how information is getting edited and created before our eyes.  As Cathy Davidson notes, “This is not the age of technology. It is the age of information. We educators, we human and social scientists, need to accept that this is our age and take up the challenge.” 

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3 comments

I am impressed with this project and how your university is helping bolster the knowledge base of Wikipedia rather than treat it as the enemy to true learning.

I am interested to know how the graduate course has gone. How have the students responded to the task of adding to the information on Wikipedia? Have they had any difficulties with their information being rejected or changed by other editors? Do graduate students come from a variety of departments? If not, do you have any plans of expanding to include other disciplines?

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I am impressed with this project and how your university is helping bolster the knowledge base of Wikipedia rather than treat it as the enemy to true learning.

I am interested to know how the graduate course has gone. How have the students responded to the task of adding to the information on Wikipedia? Have they had any difficulties with their information being rejected or changed by other editors? Do graduate students come from a variety of departments? If not, do you have any plans of expanding to include other disciplines?

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Hi Cory,

Thanks for the reponse. The projects that the students are understaking are diverse and completely up to the student. Many of the students are still beginning their research on topics (as their contributions to Wikipedia will count as their final paper in a way). But their topic has to be "Notable" - as in worthy for recognition - the way an article is notable is if it has a considerable about of literature and citations available.

Students from any department can take the course -- but all of the students in this particular class are in the Communication, Culture and Technology program. The students in the class come from a diverse amount of backgrounds (from Education, Political Science, Film and Media studies, Advertising, etc). Thus, each student will have their own unique contribution to Wikipedia.

In terms of Rejections -- There have been photo rejections, as the Wikimedia Commons is strict about "Photo" ownership policies. But so far, not many of the students have made their contributions ("live") yet, although we encourage them to do so, feedback from the commuityis still pending. But there is a Web live-chat with Online amabassadors that allow students to ask questions at anytime as well as WikiProjects and WikiPortals that all students to find topics that need improvement etc. Also, before the students publish an article they can ask for the review from editors in the community.

It has been a busy quarter and it's been hard to keep in touch with all the student projects, but we are planning on holding a Wikipedia workshop in mid-November. I'll keep you posted!

 

Kelsey

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