Wooster Students and Faculty Close Gender Gap on Wikipedia

Successful edit-a-thon results in updates on 50 pages and the establishment of 25 new pages

April 5, 2016   /  

WOOSTER, Ohio — Efforts to boost the accuracy of entries on Wikipedia and to close the gender gap that exists there received a major boost from students and faculty at The College of Wooster, who updated 50 existing pages and created 25 more during an edit-a-thon earlier this semester.

wikipedia update
Wooster students update multiple Wikipedia sites during collaborative “edit-a-thon” earlier this semester.

Organized by Christa Craven, associate professor of anthropology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Wooster, the edit-a-thon consisted of students and faculty from five classes: Kabria Baumgartner’s history course, Beyond Harriet Tubman; Susan Clayton’s psychology class, Psychology of Women & Gender; Katie Holt’s history course, Modern Brazil; Brett Krutzsch’s Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies class, Queer Lives; andJeremy Rapport’s religious studies course, New Religions in the New Age.

“Our objective was to focus on topics related to feminism, women’s history, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer individuals and organizations, and people of color — groups that have been historically marginalized,” said Craven. “We also wanted to provide an opportunity for our students to engage in active public scholarship. Students were really excited that their work would move beyond a traditional paper for class and ultimately make their research available to people throughout the world.”

Craven and her colleagues worked through the Wiki Education Foundation (Wiki Ed), a nonprofit organization that supports higher education instructors who want to assign their students to edit Wikipedia as a class.

“All of Wikipedia’s content is written by volunteers, and volunteers naturally write about what they’re most interested in,” said Wikipedia’s LiAnne Davis. “Because [our] volunteer community is overwhelmingly young, white, and male, Wikipedia’s content reflects that gender gap. Articles about women or historically marginalized groups are often underdeveloped or non-existent, and we want to fix that problem so Wikipedia can fulfill its mission to contain the sum of all human knowledge.”

The Wiki Education Foundation has partnered with the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) to help fill content gaps in Wikipedia related to women’s studies topics, according to Davis. “NWSA encourages members to assign their students to write Wikipedia articles in gender topics as part of their coursework,” said Davis. “Wikipedia gains well-referenced content on important areas previously missing. Through programs like [the Wooster] edit-a-thon, Wikipedia is gaining more credible content about women and other marginalized groups previously lacking content on Wikipedia.”

In the process of organizing the edit-a-thon, Craven and Stephen Flynn, who heads the emerging technologies operation in Andrews Library, discovered that there was no entry for incoming Wooster President Sarah Bolton so they worked together to create one. Now, when Bolton takes office on July 1, she will have her very own Wikipedia page.