March 6, 2016

Cornell Students Amend Wikipedia to Address Inequality

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Forty-four Cornellians revised and wrote Wikipedia articles on women and the arts at Saturday’s third annual Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, according to event organizer and art librarian Susan Newberry.

Editors at Cornell improved 39 existing articles and created six new pages, according to Newberry. The Edit-a-thon is a global effort that raises awareness for the lack of female Wikipedia contributors worldwide, according to the event’s Wikipedia page.

Cornell’s event was held at three locations on campus — the Johnson Museum of Art, the Fine Arts Library and Olin Library. However, the event took place on every continent, and Cornell was just one of its many locations, according to event organizer and Johnson Museum interpretive fellow Brittany Rubin.

“We’re one of these satellite sites, but they have sites in every inhabited continents in the world,” Rubin said.

Rubin said that although the meetup site had a list of target articles, the focus of the event was not the quantity of edits or new pages.

“We don’t have a number goal,” Rubin said. “We’re looking more for quality.”

Some of the improved articles concern women involved in both art and Cornell — such as Margaret Bourke-White ’27, the first foreign photographer to be given access to Soviet industry, and Alison Mason Kingsbury, the wife of a Cornell professor and painter of the Willard Straight Hall mural — according to the Wikipedia page that facilitated the virtual meetup.

The Wikimedia foundation has found that less than 10 percent of its contributors identify as female, according to the edit-a-thon website.

“While the reasons for the gender gap are up for debate, the practical effect of this disparity is not,” the website said. “Content is skewed by the lack of female participation.”

Last year, around 1500 participants edited in 75 meetups in 17 countries, according to the Art + Feminism website. Editors created 400 new articles and significantly improved 500 articles, the website said.

Cornell’s event was funded by the Society for the Humanities, the Cornell Libraries and the Wikimedia Foundation via Art + Feminism, according to Newberry.