Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Medieval Feminist Wikipedia Write-In (#medievalwiki) at Kalamazoo

by Dorothy Kim

Medieval Feminist Wikipedia Write-In (#medievalwiki)
Call For Volunteers for SMFS Wiki Write In: 

The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship is thrilled to announce that we will be running a Wikipedia Write In for the ENTIRE International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo (May 8-11)! 

Tired of having your students cite bad information from Wikipedia? Unfortunately, railing against Wikipedia is useless -- it has become the go-to first search for most people, even scholars. Writing your own articles and editing those of others is the best way to get feminist scholarship mainstreamed. Just as with print encyclopedias, women scholars do not write and edit enough articles on this digital medium. SMFS is sponsoring a Wikipedia-Write-In in Fetzer 1060 that will be open during conference hours every day (see below). We will run short tutorials every hour. Dorothy Kim and Mary Suydam are spearheading this effort. We need volunteers to staff this enterprise. If you haven't written a Wikipedia article it is very easy to learn. Either your college libary staff can teach you or you can learn it using the script put together by Mary and Dorothy for the conference. This script will be provided to every volunteer. Please volunteer! Contact Mary Suydam (suydam@kenyon.edu) with your name, email, and shift times you are available (Conference sessions are now available online at http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/sessions.html. We look forward to hearing from you!  

Please volunteer!  Contact Mary Suydam (suydam@kenyon.edu) with your name, email, and shift times you are available Conference sessions are now available online at http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/sessions.html.

In Memoriam: Adrianne Wadewitz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Wadewitz).           
Originally, I thought I would write this post about the Medieval Feminist Wikipedia Write-In at Kalamazoo this year about Isidore of Seville. I mean, what a perfect topic, right, he’s the patron saint of the internet. He happens also to have assembled a tremendously important foundational text—Etymologies—the origins of the medieval encyclopedic genre. I could have had fun thinking about Isidore of Seville MSS (I am particularly obsessed with the bestiary entries) and the constant revision and reassembling of encyclopedic knowledge. But instead, I would like to dedicate this blog and what will happen at Kalamazoo in a 4-day marathon to Adrianne Wadewitz, who died at the end of March from a climbing accident in Joshua Tree.
            Adrianne Wadewitz was a Mellon Digital Scholarship Postdoctoral Fellow at Occidental College. A Ph.D. in 18th c. English Literature from Indiana University, she was also known in digital humanities as the go-to person for all things Wikipedia. She had begun writing entries in 2004 and had contributed to 49,000 Wikipedia entries and was ranked 813 of all Wikipedia editors. I actually met Adrianne only once in person at MLA (in the Marriott lobby bar) in Chicago. We had talked vis-à-vis twitter numerous times when I was in the process of organizing this unusual media session for SMFS. After I got approval to pitch the idea of a Medieval Feminist Wikipedia Write-In (by democratic vote at our Business Meeting at Kalamazoo 2013), I needed crowdsourced help from the feminist digital humanists in order to figure out what I was getting myself into and what I needed in order to pull it off.
So, I contacted vis-à-vis twitter (yes, everyone, twitter is a fantastic networking tool) and reached out to #dhpoco (Adeline Koh and Roopika Risam) who had recently done a Global Feminist Wikipedia Write-In; Jacqueline Wernimont (Scripps) who I knew had done feminist Wikipedia Write-Ins. All roads led to Adrianne, because as everyone said, Adrianne is the woman to talk to for Wikipedia write-a-thons as feminist activist acts as well as for practical advice. She was generous with her suggestions and links and what was necessary to pull off such an event. There is simply no way this event would be happening without the generosity of her and other feminist digital humanists who have given me advice, suggestions, or even written a how-to guide in the Chronicle’s ProfHacker. Her work, her generosity, her humor, and her dedication will be sorely missed.
Academic Citation and Gender
            Wikipedia has a major gender imbalance issue in relation to its editorial demographics. As the recent Wikimedia discussion has stated, the numbers reveal that less then 10% of Wikipedia editors are women. In addition, in so many different fields, incredibly important named women in history, literature, sciences, social sciences, culture, art, etc. have no entries whatsoever (http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2013/10/to-fix-wikipedia-s-gender-imbalance-a-big-editing-party/280470/). Adrianne had organized several feminist Wikipedia edit-a-thons (FemTech Edit-a-thon; Feminists Engage Wikipedia, etc.). She was a major figure in pushing Wikipedia’s gender issues in producing knowledge. She wrote the gold standard articles for major entries in 18th-century and Romantic literature and culture: Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, etc.
            Why should a feminist Wikipedia-Write-In-Marathon be an important part of your Kalamazoo conference experience? I would direct everyone to what we know about the state of women and citation documented in several CHE articles. Women are cited less than men and women writers actually tend not to cite their own work as these articles explain: http://chronicle.com/article/New-Data-Show-Articles-by/143559/; http://chronicle.com/article/New-Gender-Gap-in-Scholarship/145311/. Sara Ahmed tackles this problem in feminist theory and names it “The Problem of Perception.” She uses the following example to discuss “when you expose a problem you pose a problem. She writes: “For example, when you make an observation in public that all the speakers for an event are all white men, or all but one, or all the citations in an academic paper are to all white men, or all but a few, these observations are often treated as the problem with how you are perceiving things (you must be perceiving things!).” She is speaking to issues related to gender and racial diversity in this excellent post: http://feministkilljoys.com/2014/02/17/the-problem-of-perception/. I encourage everyone, especially with feminist tendencies, to read. Her work here is especially important in considering the issues surrounding gender diversity and the question of citation. While further chronicling this problematic terrain of academic citation, she directs us to these examples:
“Or once I pointed out that a reference list of a book included almost only male writers (and two of the references to women were references to women in relation to men) and the author responded that I had described the pattern right, as the pattern was ‘in the traditions’ that influenced him. Or when I had a conversation with someone on Facebook about the masculinist nature of a certain field of philosophy, they responded with a ‘well of course,’ as if it to say, well of course it is like that, it is the philosophy of technology. I have begun calling these kinds of arguments disciplinary fatalism: the assumption that in following a line we can only reproduce that line.”
In order to disrupt these tendencies of gendered citation and credit, this edit-a-thon has been created to make a “conscious willed effort” to change this by asking everyone, but particularly women medievalists, to come and edit entries with us. If we want genealogies of knowledge to stop replicating masculine, citational tendencies, then we must take up our laptops and push back by writing entries and changing the demographics of citation.
            We will also have both the Facebook SMFS page and the twitter feed (@SocietyMedFem) open to help answer questions to those interested but who cannot attend the conference. Post a question on the Facebook page or tweet it to us between our opening hours. If medievalists are interested in changing the perception of the Middle Ages for public users (students, general public, etc.), this Wikipedia Write-In is an opportunity to change that terrain. We will be tweeting how it’s going at this hashtag: #medievalwiki. Please feel free to post how writing these entries are going. Our conference registration will allow us access to WMU’s digital library of articles and sources. Thus, bring yourselves and your laptops to Fetzer.
We will be doing a series of blog posts for In the Middle that will explains some of the basics and a how-to guideline on how to write an entry. We hope to see you at Kalamazoo in person or online. We hope this experience will inspire future assignments with your students or future edit-thon events on your campuses.

Dorothy Kim
Assistant Professor of English, Vassar College
“medievalist, digital humanist, feminist”

No comments: