The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Jun 25, 2015

Wiki Biases

For years now, people have highlighted Wikipedia's biases. The lack of coverage of topics outside a predominantly white, male interest. The lack of female editors. The drop in numbers of active editors. They have ascribed various reasons for these lacunae. They have tried to encourage new editors by promoting editathons. They encouraged university faculty to assign editorial tasks to their students. Still the biases remain.

So in my bid to make a small difference - at least where gender bias is concerned - I have been writing or rewriting a few articles. First, I thought I'd look at women novelists. The big names have a certain amount of coverage already. Recent award winners looked like a better bet. Maybe a few outside the Anglophone world, as well? I contributed: Hermione Eyre. Simone Schwarz-Bart. Hélia Correia. Michela Murgia. Ursula Krechel. Katie Kitamura. Shani Boianjiu.

Then, I cast my web a little wider. Art / Music / Acting? I contributed: Maria Yakunchikova. Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin. Alla Sizova. Jyotsna Srikanth. Sudha Raghunathan.

Can you imagine that someone as luminous as Sudha Raghunathan had barely any coverage on the Wikipedia? Even now, it's quite limited.

Finally, I poked about the academic world. Historians? I contributed: Mridula Mukherjee. Physicists? Bimla Buti. I thought I might do more but I tell you, it's exhausting work.

You have to find secondary sources to evidence the statements you make in your article. You have to make sure that these secondary sources are 'reliable'. Often, you don't have access to scholarly journals, so you trawl through Google Scholar or Google Books and try to finesse the snippet view to find just the right text to reference. This way leads to early blindness. You have to look up interviews, reviews, controversies, photographs, material in other languages. Sometimes you have to fight off people who are protective of their pet subjects and want no correction to their articles.

As I said: exhausting.


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