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Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon teaches Wikipedia editing to students


Senior Collections and Reference Associate Edwin Cheek looks for Wikipedia articles March 10 in Wells Library during the Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon. Nine editors added over 1,300 words to Wikipedia articles about arts, feminism and cis and trans women. Elle Kreamer

The Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon worked to improve representation of cis and trans women, nonbinary people, people of color and Indigenous communities by teaching people how to edit Wikipedia articles.

The non-profit organization Art + Feminism’s first Wikipedia campaign began in 2014. Since then, over 14,000 people from around the world have participated in the edit-a-thons, according to Art + Feminism’s website.Edit-a-thons can be held by anyone anywhere around the world.

This year's edit-a-thon in Bloomington took place from noon to 3 p.m. Tuesday at Herman B Wells Library and focused on female artists’ Wikipedia pages. The event was organized by the IU Libraries Arts & Humanities division and the IU Libraries Diversity Committee, and anyone could participate. 

During the event, nine participants, including library faculty and students, added over 1,300 words across 10 articles. Participants added text about the artists' lives based on research done at the event.

Sarah Carter, Wells Library Art, Architecture and Design librarian, facilitated the event. She said at the 2019 Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon participants added 1,500 words across 10 different articles. Those articles have been viewed over 10,000 timesin the last year.

Carter said students gain confidence from the event because they realize how easy and enjoyable editing Wikipedia articles can be.

“I think it is easy for the average person to feel that editing a Wikipedia article is for other people, it's not for them,” Carter said. “A lot of people, including women, will discount themselves.”

The Wikimedia Foundation found in a 2011 survey that less than 10% of Wikipedia contributors identify as female.

Carter, along with other librarians, assisted with technology and taught people how to edit at the event. Carter said it is important for students to know how knowledge is shared on Wikipedia and who is sharing it.

“As a librarian, I'm very invested in the process of producing and sharing knowledge, and I want that labor of producing and sharing knowledge to be more visible to students on our campus,” Carter said.

Sciences librarian Amy Minix participated in the edit-a-thon for the second time Tuesday. She taught people how to edit articles and contributed to the pages herself. Minix said the lack of female and minority contributors to Wikipedia is shocking.

Minix will lead her own edit-a-thon on March 27 for Women in STEM. She said she chose to participate in the event because it is important to learn about where your information comes from.

“You get to be an active participant in the way that information is dispersed,” Minix said.

Spencer Anspach, library systems analyst and head of database management, said it is important to help people learn how to figure out where information is from and who is spreading the information. Anspach helped people learn how to edit, and helped teach people how to add citations and tags, which is important to make sure the information on Wikipedia is relevant.

“There has to be a person behind these things,” Anspach said.

Carter said anyone can learn how to edit on Wikipedia, and it’s important for women and minorities to contribute as long as they are doing so responsibly.

“The general public often takes Wikipedia articles for granted,” Carter said. “But when you try and actually edit an article on Wikipedia it really highlights for you the power of an individual or small group can make a big change.”

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