Submissions:2016/How can Wikipedia represent indigenous people better?

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Community; Outreach; Academic Engagement
Academic Peer Review option
Type of submission
Magnus Pharao Hansen
E-mail address
University of Copenhagen

An underdeveloped area of coverage within Wikipedia is the cultures and histories of the world's many thousand Indigenous peoples. This presentation presents and analyzes the challenge of achieving a better representation of Indigenous peoples on Wikipedia - both in terms of editor diversity and in terms of quality of coverage. The presentation is based on the research that resulted in the article 2016 in American Anthropologist “Writing Irataba: On Representing Native Americans on Wikipedia”, but is presented with a focus on the types of solutions that can be developed to counteract the problems that hinder Wikipedia from being able to produce adequate coverage of Native Americans and other indigenous peoples. The presentation notes a series of concerns about the coverage and representation of Native Americans on the English Wikipedia including: lack of coverage, biased coverage, poorly sourced coverage. Illustrative examples are drawn from Wikipedia content. It traces these problems to a number of underlying factors: lack of access to high quality sources, lack of ability to identify and interpret high quality sources, difficulties reconciling Wikipedia’s sourcing requirements for oral and traditional knowledge, and finally, but significantly, a relative lack of contributors from indigenous communities. The lack of participation from native communities may be considered a result of the systemic bias affecting many marginalized communities in the world, and growing participation of minority contributors is the main potential solution for this issue. The presentation proposes a number of solution strategies: Outreach to indigenous communities through tribal libraries, colleges and museums. Outreach to academics specializing in representing knowledge of indigenous communities. Partnership between tribal institutions and academics in developing coverage of specific topics. Finally, the presentation points out the potential of Wikipedias in indigenous languages as ways for indigenous communities to seize control of their own cultural and linguistic heritage, and as a potential tool for revitalization of endangered indigenous languages and knowledges. It is suggested that this potential if fully encouraged and explored may become the main motivation for indigenous communities and tribes to engage with the Wikimedia movement.

Length of presentation
30 min.
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