Wikipedia has a problem. Of the 20,572,652 editors that populate the online encyclopedia, only 13 per cent are women. Organizers of the Wikipedia Art+Feminism Edit-A-Thon event believe that this lack of female editorship results in less content about notable women.
“It seems that the ratio of the content providers is being reflected in the actual content itself,” says Eleanor King, Director of NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens Gallery and co-coordinator of Halifax’s event. “The aim of the Edit-A-Thon is to get women and men involved and to sort of level out that playing field a little bit.”
On February 1 women and men around the world will be gathering together to become Wikipedia editors, so they can update en masse the profiles of notable women (artists in particular). What started out of the Eyebeam Art+Technology Center in New York City has now been taken up by organizations and universities across North America and now Europe.
Rebecca Young is the director of library services at NSCAD and when she heard about the event through a listserv she immediately thought of hosting an Edit-A-Thon here in Halifax (Saturday, February 1, 1-7pm, NSCAD University Library, 5163 Duke Street). Though the event is based at NSCAD and is directed towards students, it’s open to the public as well. “The participation is open to anybody who wants to come in, bring their own laptop and just work together,” Young says. All you have to do is take a quick tutorial on how to be a Wikipedia editor, pick a person to add and start researching. The process is pretty empowering.
“Every time you see something that needs to be corrected now you can say I’m just logging in, I’m going to fix this.”
And if you don’t want to become an editor yourself there will be lots of opportunities to help other registered editors with their research. “It’s not a place for your opinion,” King says. “It’s an encyclopedia article so if you make any claims then you have to cite that work.”
Young explains that this is why the event is being held in the library, “The resources are available to find those citations,” Young says. “If it’s a local artist from Halifax we might have a magazine where an article was published about them or an exhibition catalogue, all those things are legitimate sources that can then legitimize that page.”
Prof. Jayne Wark of NSCAD is including the event as part of her Feminism and Critical Theory course. Her class has already come up with a list of Nova Scotia women artists they want to add, including Rita McKeough, Kim Morgan, Ursula Johnson and Toshiko MacAdam.
Both Young and King are looking forward to building up the repository of articles on women along with so many other people around the world. “Is the internet going to explode?” Young asks, “We don’t know.”