Submissions:2015/Addressing the Gender Gap: Wiki Edu Projects for Digital Humanities

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Addressing the Gender Gap: Wiki Edu Projects for Digital Humanities
Type of submission
Matthew Vetter
E-mail address
Ohio University

In recent years, the Wikipedia community, including Wiki Edu, has become increasingly aware of systemic problems of representation in the encyclopedia resulting from a significant gap in the number of female vs. male editors (Glott, Schmidt, and Ghosh). The homogenous demographic of male editors has produced a number of problems in terms of representation, with articles and topics that might matter more to female or LGBTQ audiences less developed or even absent in the encyclopedia (Cohen). Wiki Edu, as a program that can encourage new demographics of editors to participate in Wikipedia editing projects, is in a unique position to 1) spread awareness of systemic problems of representation and 2) work to address the gaps in content that arise because of the homogenous editor demographic. In this presentation, I describe a collaborative project undertaken in the spring of 2015 in which a colleague and I (together teaching three courses) participated in the Wikipedia Education Program to specifically address these aims within the context of digital humanities. The course in question, "Women Writing in Digital Spaces," engaged students in issues of identity, technology, and gender, focusing especially on the ways in which women and LGBTQ identities are silenced, marginalized, oppressed, or attacked in online venues. As part of the course, students engaged in critical analysis of Wikipedia in order to recognize systemic issues of representation and access, thinking broadly about how the encyclopedia has become less “open” since its inception and of the ways in which its homogenous demographic and knowledge making practices influence representation and content. Students participating in this project went beyond critique to also contribute to the encyclopedia, and address its gender gap in concrete ways. To accomplish this, students performed research on a topic related to gender, women’s studies, women’s representation, or LGBTQ issues, identifying a need for a new article or edits to an existing article, and then updated or created a new article based on their research. Finally, students were also asked to pay close attention to what they could learn about writing, research, and digital publishing by participating in what is perhaps the most productive and efficient writing community online.

Such a project accomplishes goals that should be of interest to a number of audiences, including 1) academics and nonacademics interested in cultural critiques of digital communities and interfaces, 2) academic instructors in writing, cultural studies, rhetoric, communication and other digital humanities contexts, 3) Wikipedians and Wikimedians interested in systemic issues of representation and access, and 4) individuals involved directly or indirectly in Wiki Edu initiatives.

This presentation will attempt to speak to as many of these audiences as possible, yet will also stay focused on description of the opportunities provided by collaborative initiatives between academics and Wiki Edu to promote learning in the digital humanities and increase representation of marginalized topics and identities in Wikipedia. I am not interested in narratives that critique Wikipedia as an inherently misogynistic community. Rather, I hope to contribute to and engage audience members in discussions of how Wikipedia, partly because of its reliance on epistemological policies of verifiability, inadvertently reproduces social hierarchies and hegemonies of Western cultures that are always already patriarchal. In coming to a more complex realization about how Wikipedia’s epistemological practices contribute to systemic issues, it also becomes possible to forge and sustain more productive relationships between Wikipedia communities and academics, especially those in the digital humanities.

Finally, this presentation will also highlight a collaboration between Wiki Edu and the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, which resulted in the following publications, as a way to further sustain these relationships.

“Wikipedia’s Gender Problem and What We’re Doing About It (Part II).” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative. University of Michigan Press/University of Michigan Center for Writing. April 29, 2015.

“Wikipedia’s Gender Problem and What We’re Doing About It.” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative. University of Michigan Press/University of Michigan Center for Writing. April 8, 2015.

“Wiki Wednesday Guest Post: Eryk Salvaggio of Wikipedia Edu.” Digital Rhetoric Collaborative. University of Michigan Press/University of Michigan Center for Writing. March 11, 2015.


Glott, Ruediger, Schmidt, Philipp, and Rishab Ghosh. “Wikipedia Survey Overview.” UNU-MERIT. Wikimedia Foundation, Mar. 2010. Web. 7 Feb. 2015. Cohen, Noam. “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List.” The New York Times. The New York Times Co., 30 Jan. 2011. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

Length of presentation
25 mins.
Special schedule requests
can not present on Friday
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  1. Jami (Wiki Ed) (talk) 19:22, 31 August 2015 (EDT)
  2. Eryk (Wiki Ed) (talk) 13:35, 1 September 2015 (EDT)
  3. Samantha (Wiki Ed) (talk) 13:47, 3 September 2015 (EDT)
  4. Helaine (Wiki Ed) (talk) 16:53, 3 September 2015 (EDT)
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  6. Mozucat (talk) 01:11, 5 September 2015 (EDT)
  7. Rosiestep (talk) 01:44, 6 September 2015 (EDT)
  8. Pjtabit (talk) 01:24, 7 October 2015 (EDT)
  9. DStrassmann (talk) 23:56, 8 October 2015 (EDT)
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