Students and faculty of all disciplines gathered at the Central Library to take part in the HerStory Edit-a-thon on Wednesday, aiming to diversify the aspects of editing and content creation within Wikipedia.
During a 4-hour workshop focused on female participants, UTA Library faculty presented information and fielded questions regarding the inner workings of Wikipedia, including everything from creating an account to editing and creating content.
Less than 20 percent of editors are female, according to a 2012 Wikipedia editor survey. This statistic embodies one of the biggest problems that has been associated with the information resource, said Samantha Dodd, UTA Library special collections archivist and HerStory organizer. Dodd said content that is created predominantly by white males results in a limited perspective for articles. As Wikipedia is an open resource that serves users across the globe, it will benefit from having as much diversity within content creators as possible, Dodd said.
“Projects like our HerStory Edit-a-thon, like the Art+Feminism edit-a-thons or AfroCROWD aim to diversify who is creating content, and thereby diversifying what content gets added to Wikipedia,” Dodd said.
Art+Feminism is a movement aiming to improve coverage of feminism, the arts, cisgender and transgender women, while AfroCROWD works to increase the number of Wikipedia editors of African descent.
Another goal of the HerStory Edit-a-thon is to fight the perception in academic circles that Wikipedia is not a credible source for information, Dodd said. Many users, especially academic faculty, have a tendency to judge Wikipedia based on their previously held lax policies regarding content creation and peer-reviewing, Dodd said. However, she said that there have been monumental improvements to the moderation of editors, editing quality of articles and consistency of peer-reviewed sources since the website’s creation in 2001.
“So, we’re all about open access to resources, why not use the fifth most used website in the world to kind of leverage that, and get this information out of the libraries and into the hands of the people that need them?” Dodd said.
Laurel Stvan, linguistics and Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages department chairperson, said academic leaders and instructors who are skeptical of how their fields of study are represented on Wikipedia possess the expertise to help improve the situation. Stvan said faculty members that don’t approve of Wikipedia should bring their resources to the website to help rectify the issue of topics in the minority being misrepresented.
Stvan said she incorporates Wikipedia articles and editing in her linguistics courses, and she was happy to see the event host a wide range of both students and faculty members.
“I’m really excited to see UTA having an edit-a-thon on the campus,” Stvan said. “And of course Women’s History Month is a great occasion to be addressing part of the gender gap that shows up in Wikipedia already.”
Events such as the HerStory Edit-a-thon are important as they encourage open participation regardless of experience, said Theresa Arias, art and art history graduate student.
“I learned that, which I kind of already knew, Wikipedia has come a long way as a reliable source, but there is a lot of work to be done,” Arias said. “It’s good to see that we are able to contribute and continue to improve it.”