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Art + Feminism group runs a Wikipedia marathon

Wikipedia contributors address the gender gap by adding new content for art and feminism

3 min read
Sixian Zuo

Last Saturday, about a dozen people worked together at the NSCAD University Library to improve Wikipedia’s content, specifically pages about women in visual arts.

This edit-a-thon, a portmanteau of “edit” and “marathon,” was put on by Art + Feminism, an international organization holding similar events this month.

Along with improving content, the event also addressed the Wikipedia editor gender gap. According to the Art+ Feminism website, less than 10 per cent of Wikipedia contributors identify as female. Wikipedia says that “Wikipedia contains more than 40 million volunteer-authored articles.”

“This (edit-a-thon) is a way to encourage women and people identified as women to contribute to Wikipedia in order to address that gap,” said Rebecca Young, a librarian at NSCAD. She held the first edit-a-thon in Halifax in 2014.

“If most the contents are generated by men or males, it is not going to necessarily balance out very well with subjects or interests that might be more assigned to women, girls and females,” she said.

Participants wrote a full article about a person or an organization or an art movement that was created by women or people identified as women and added it to Wikipedia.

This was the first time that Tamsin Johanna, Brenna Connely and Katarina Marinic contributed to the website. They wanted to add Nancy Edell, a Nova Scotian artist, to the site, while other participants added Karin Cope, Marisa Portolese and other artists.

caption Brenna Connely, left, and Katarina Marinic, right, work on their draft about Nancy Edell.
Sixian Zuo

Participants prepared content for two months by collecting materials and books sources. The sources must be published and valid, which means it couldn’t be personal opinions or information from the artist’s website.

“We had to make sure there was enough written and published on her (Edell) before proceeding with the wiki page,” said Marinic.

Jayne Wark, a professor of NSCAD who participated in the event, said there are rules that have to be followed.

“They can contact the artists to do fact-check, but they cannot post on Wikipedia an interview with themselves,” said Wark, who has published many articles and books on feminism and art.

She took part in the first edit-a-thon and encouraged her students take part in this year’s event. 

caption Jayne Wark encouraged her students take part in the edit-a-thon.
Sixian Zuo

Once participants finished their draft and edits, it still had to be approved by a Wikipedia team. The process could take up to one week.

“It is a very dynamic process,” said Young. “It doesn’t just automatically go up and stay there; a lot of stuff can be taken down or disputed. There is a particular neutrality and notability that has to be associated with the tone and the content of the article.”

caption A Wikipedia page after a draft was submitted by a contributor.
Sixian Zuo

Young said this event is also a way for the participants to learn about Wikipedia.

All edit-a-thon progress and contribution generated from the NSCAD library this year can be found on the Wikipedia Programs & Events Dashboard

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