[Just as a by the way, I was going to call this post ‘snowballing’ but on checking the spelling I discovered that while I think of snowballing as meaning either throwing snow around or corporate speak for increasing speed and mass there’s a section of the interwebs that think of it very differently! Who knew? I’m still stunned!]
Anyway, moving swiftly on – I had an email from Claire this week. Remember her Wikipedia editathon? Following on from her involvement with the TrowelBlazers editathon to tackle the absence of entries about women archaeologists on Wikipedia, Claire highlighted on her blog how there was the same masculist problem for women classicists and she decided to hold her own editathon. The session was hugely productive with editing of the Wiki entries for Eugénie Sellers Strong, Anna Maria van Schurman, Gisela Richter, Betty Radice, Virginia Grace and Anne Dacier and profiles created for Margery Venables Taylor and Joyce Reynolds. All good stuff. And, even better, there seems to be media interest in the Wikipedia bias. Claire had contacted me to say that the New Statesman had an article on the subject this week in which they covered her event:
‘While increasing the coverage of women on the site, these meet-ups are also more likely to attract female editors in the first place. Claire Millington made her first edit at a “Women in Archaeology” editathon in 2013. We meet at a café next to Senate House Library, where she has been working on her classics PhD at King’s College London. Her thesis is on the women who served in the households of Roman auxiliary army commanders, a group of women that has never been systematically studied. “There’s a pattern in what’s written about women and their achievements, and it’s basically that they’re not written about,” she says. “I don’t want Wikipedia to be a place where women are written out of history again, because if it’s not on Wikipedia, it’s not visible.”
Millington sees it as her duty to make sure that her academic field is properly represented on Wikipedia. She creates new articles and nurtures them, keeping them on a watchlist so that she can check on new contributions. So far, she has not yet found any edits that she’s wanted to change. Wikipedia’s genteel classics pages are unlikely sites for bitter editing wars, but Millington has yet to experience the encyclopaedia’s aggressive side, and has organised her own editathon, encouraging her colleagues to participate. “I think the interface is the one thing that Wikipedia, Wikimedia, really needs to address. It’s not immediately intuitive,” she says. “It’s great if you’re techy – and there are a lot of people involved in Wikipedia who are techy – but the majority of the population are used to getting their phone out of the box and turning it on and using it. It’s not that women can’t do it, it’s just initially it’s not very welcoming.”’ (Jenny Kleeman The Wikipedia wars: does it matter if our biggest source of knowledge is written by men? New Statesman 26th May 2015)
The article as a whole is interesting, it is critical of Wikipedia while acknowledging just how much the site is used. I think she has some interesting insights into women’s use and involvement with the internet, so do go and read the whole thing. I also feel that such media coverage can only be helpful in persuading more women (and men) to get involved with the work of making sure Wikipedia is factual and covers a wide range of people regardless of their gender or ethnicity. Hopefully as more people do get involved we’ll see a real difference in representation just as we saw a change from the risible inaccuracies of the initial Wikipedia pages.
With luck the momentum will continue to build, but not snowball!
Have a great weekend, I’m going to try to avoid being educated by the internet for 48 hours and hang on to my naivety for a little while longer!