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Wikipedia edit-a-thon increases gender representation in the arts

Students gather in the Heirloom Cafe to edit and create Wikipedia articles about women and nonbinary artists. Credit: Nicholas Youngblood | Lantern Reporter

A group of volunteer Wikipedia editors joined forces with the Wexner Center for the Arts on Saturday for an editing workshop to increase the online encyclopedia’s coverage of female and nonbinary artists.

Wikipedia Connection, a student organization dedicated to increasing awareness of how anybody can contribute to Wikipedia, hosted the “Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” event for the second year in a row. The event was held in the Wexner Center thanks to a collaboration with the Wexner Center for the Arts Student Engagement Group.

The edit-a-thon — one of many hosted around the world in honor of Women’s History Month — is intended to improve content on feminism, gender and the arts on Wikipedia by adding information and citations to existing articles, in addition to creating entirely new articles, according to the event page.

Many of the attendees were female artists and first-time editors, and with the help of a mobile reference desk provided by Courtney Hunt from the university library, they strengthened the site’s coverage of female and non-binary expression.

“Knowing more about women artists is knowing more about women’s stories and women’s perspectives on the world,” Genevieve Wagner, a second-year in fine arts, said.

To date, fewer than 18 percent of all biographies on Wikipedia are about women, according to Women in Red, a feminist Wikipedia project.

“People edit what they like, and Wikipedia’s user base is largely white, straight males from the Western Hemisphere. So that means that there’s a lot of topics that — for various reasons — don’t get covered,” Emery Dalesio, a third-year in aerospace engineering and the vice president and treasurer of Wikipedia Connection, said. “The more people we can engage, the more topics we can cover, the better.”

The exclusion of women is not intentional, Dalesio said, but is a result of the insular nature of the Wikipedia community. In recent years, Wikipedia has started several initiatives, such as Women in Red, to combat that.

Still, Alexandra Adcock, a second-year in arts management and the president of the Wexner Center for the Arts Student Engagement Group, said only 10 percent of editors are female-identifying. This contributes to male dominance in art and other fields, she said.

To this end, Dalesio said another goal is to encourage inexperienced editors and give them the tools to become regular Wikipedia contributors.

He touted the democratic nature of the online encyclopedia as its strongest feature. Almost all contributors are volunteers, and no account is required to start adding information. If everyone contributes, Dalesio said, the biases in coverage will start to disappear.

“By doing an event like this, we can show people that you can edit; your contributions are valid; your contributions are valued. Beyond valued: necessary,” Dalesio said.

A look at their Wikimedia profile shows that in the past year, Wikipedia Connection has edited 755 articles and created five new articles. These edits have been viewed 1.74 million times.

“People can make a difference,” Dalesio said. “By thinking about what we edit and making an effort, we can really change the culture of Wikipedia.”

 

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