Nature covers the recent Wikipedia Science Conference in London, part of Wikipedia's outreach to scientists and efforts to "bridge the gap between the online encyclopaedia and the research community".
Discussing the reasons why such outreach is necessary, Martin Poulter, an organizer of the conference, told Nature:
|A lot of academics have the impression that because anyone can edit, that means it’s a Wild West. But Wikipedia is a community of ultra-pedants who care about facts being right.
Poulter added that there was a "cultural barrier" militating against stronger involvement from scientists, who may feel they have too little time to get into the lengthy discussions that sometimes occur around Wikipedia edits. Poulter said, "There have to be changes from both sides. That’s what we’re discussing."
The conference, which took place September 2–3, brought Wikipedians together with academics and publishers new to Wikipedia editing. (Sept. 7) T
More Wikipedia editors in the Netherlands than all of Africa combined
Vice reports on a paper published by researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute (OII) which comes to the conclusion that "the relative democratisation of the Internet has not brought about a concurrent democratisation of voice and participation".
|We wanted to look at issues of participation in Wikipedia and look at who gets to represent who. [...] We wanted to see if Wikipedia offered a space, not just for people in the UK to write about things in the UK, but for, say, people in Kenya to write about things in Kenya.
By geolocating both edits and editors across the various language versions of Wikipedia, the researchers found that editors from North America played a disproportionate role in creating both Wikipedia content about their own culture and content about other cultures. Five countries – the US, the UK, Germany, France and Italy – were responsible for 45 percent of all Wikipedia edits, and there were "more Wikipedia editors from The Netherlands than all of Africa combined". And when editors from low-income countries did participate, they tended to write about global rather than local topics.
Mark Graham, an associate professor at the OII and one of the authors of the paper, suggested that despite awareness of this issue within Wikipedia and laudable efforts such as the global outreach team, Wikipedia "is not inherently democratising knowledge" – its own rules reinforce rather than subvert the status quo:
|You need content to make more content on Wikipedia; you can’t just submit content without any citation. If you are trying to contribute content about a place where there is little existing content about it in the first place, you’re going to have a hard time finding sources to back up what you’re trying to say. [...]
I think the reason why we see Western Europe and North America dominating at Wikipedia is not necessarily because they’re better at it, but because they have all of these underlying institutional advantages that Wikipedia is just reflecting, rather than undermining in any way.
Remedial efforts therefore needed to focus on the development of cultural and educational infrastructure in the countries concerned, Graham argued; internet technology alone was no quick fix in levelling the playing field. (Sept. 8) AK