Women and Wikipedia, a rant.

A friend emailed me a link to an interesting visualization on Wikipedia and authorship (http://flowingdata.com/2012/09/11/wikipedia-is-dominated-by-male-editors/) that demonstrates the sheer contributions gaps. I of course freaked out about it:

This has been an issue for a while now :/ I’ve been running into more and more people that are starting their own community wikis because of the higher level restrictions imposed on authors for source citation. It’s sort of a funny backlash, coming from teachers and academics (old farts mostly I think) who think Wikipedia is rubbish, which has in turn created this kind of hostile environment for new editors and people exploring the system, as well as those who think about knowledge differently. “No I don’t have a citation for the meaning of this statue, I have a story about it” isn’t legitimate in some systems of logic. Probably an example of institutionalized sexism built into our construction of knowledge – you don’t get to say “I think it’s this, maybe?” you have to be gruff and shout “it’s fucking this damnit” and then intimidate anyone else who opposes you. Rampant in the dialectic world that surrounds me here, be it humanities or engineering or whatever, sadly.

Or at least that’s my impression of the social dynamic underlying it. The technical aptitude thing is a little different, I think, in that our systems of education suck at teaching people to hack and build with computer systems. Wikipedia’s input method isn’t all that friendly but it’s very simple for anyone who has been taught to program. Generally women are swayed away from learning to create with information interfaces in the same way they’re discouraged from doing math. This is starting to change, though, as many women have adopted and driven social media development and programs in informatics are growing and increasingly diverse while computer science becomes even more white/Asian male dominated. Lately my answer hasn’t been “Oh let’s get more women in CS” it has instead been “Fuck CS and abstract math, let’s get more people of all kinds into interdisciplanary studies that relate computers to real people and real practice.”

A long-winded trip of a response to your frustration. I’m sorry it sucked to try to modify Wikipedia. I’m not sure what the answer might be for you personally, other than maybe making it a project with the hubby or a more tech-experienced female friend, but I know as an instructor I can do something like modifying Wikipedia as an assignment and using the peer-learning/social-support classroom environment to make it more possible. We have at least a couple of professors in LIS that do this (and remember, GSLIS = 85% women, most of them ultra-timid introverts, so this is a big deal).

You landed on a very good question, though -> which professions contribute more to Wikipedia? My money would be on those with more educated people and ones that fit more into that masculine dialectic dynamic I related above. Also people with free time and a computer available. Maybe what we need is a really good cell phone app for Wikipedia.

That’s colored bright pink.

Kidding.

🙂

Common First Names

Many people have noticed I sometimes give people (or characters) strange (occasionally funny) nicknames. Well here’s to some justification, straight from Wolfram Alpha’s analysis of several thousand Facebook friends – common names:

Laura/Lauren 26
Sarah 19
Liz/Elizabeth 17
Katie/Katherine 16
Emily 13

Chris/Christopher 19
Mike/Michael 19
John 16
Matt/Matthew 16
Ben/Benjamin 14
Dan/Daniel 14
Dave/David 13
Brian 13

So, chances are if you have one of these names I’m probably going to have to make something more unique up for you. Sorry!

Distributed Community-Based Archival for Retail/Consumption History

I was out helping a friend shop for shoes the other day, and, as I often do when facing a moment of boredom, checked in on my phone with Foursquare and took a picture of where I was. Not of people, of course, because that would be creepy, but of a colorful display of heels.

But then I got to thinking about that. I’m odd – that is strange, because I try to post a picture most of the time I check in somewhere. Over time I’ve accumulated a kind of history of my life, but a very corporate-consumer kind of one, as stores and restaurants are the places that are most easily checked in to. In a sense it’s a very different kind of photo history than those we more purposefully curate – as opposed to taking pictures of friends and family or events for instance.

BUT – what if we all did this, all of the time? Not only would we be able to look back and know something about store layouts, aesthetic and product trends at a given moment in our past, but with enough people taking pictures and attaching them to metadata (location, time, date, store) automatically we’d have a kind of social history that would be much more owned by the public than a given specific company (save for maybe Foursquare, but the photos are also stored on our personal devices, at least for now, until Apple finds a way to lock that out too). Clearly we could all be just taking pictures of the world around us all of the time, but Foursquare is a way to provide incentive and encourage it.

SO – I think the next logical step would be to see if you could build off of the FourSquare API to sort, archive and store all of these photos in a format that would help them to tell stories. Not unlike when you see pictures people have taken attached to Google Maps, but with a lot more of them for any given specific place – you can imagine Starbucks in May 2010, November 2010, January 2011, and so on, with different angles and emphasis. You could then page up Starbucks and see a visual history of it in an instant. Neat! Crowd-sourcing! Useful? Maybe not. But the kind of thing us information scientists who think about social behaviors might dig.

And in engineering-videogamer world

In my world the word diversity often (usually) refers to a mixed social identity composition of a group, typically encapsulated by socio-analytic categories like race, ethnicity, gender, class, ability, sexuality, age and more. Watch what this video (for a game that I enjoy and play with friends!) implies diversity is:

And, to some extent, they’re right – the game has all kinds of heroes – aliens, monkeys, scarecrows, overweight alcoholics and more. Unfortunately LOL is not diverse and quite cliche in that:

  • Sexist cliches – Every female character is either a little girl (child) or a fighting fuck toy trope (with impossible proportions – the male characters have comparably more diverse body types). Of the non-human monsters (no, Yordles don’t count) there is only one with a female voice, as compared to dozens with male voices. And just in case you were thinking about suggesting the male characters have unrealistic bodies too, you might consider that this too is part of structural oppression.
  • Colorblind racism – Nearly all of the characters have either white skin (Caucasian) or fictional skin (bright red, blue, etc…). You can spot a couple of champions who are probably of implied Asian decent and perhaps some purchasable alternative hero looks (you have to pay money to be black Ryze or Latina Karma?) that may include others. Fantasy and Sci-Fi worlds without racial diversity are certainly cliche and default whiteness is a form of racism (think of Band-Aids or crayons of peach color being labeled ‘flesh-colored’).

I’d also add that far too many of their characters seem to have some serious anger management issues, but that would make a little more sense in the context of battle.

Computer Donations

I had a moment that made me smile today. A friend asked me if I knew of good home for an old G5 Mac she wished to donate. I of course could think of a half a dozen places offhand, but this isn’t exactly what made me happy. As a kid I always envisioned myself as ‘growing up’ to be someone who was actively engaged in producing social good. If I think about it, I really have been involved with a whole lot of groups around this community, and I really do know many of them well enough to know truly how in need they are and some actual impacts they provide. I guess I already knew this, I just don’t think about it from an externalized angle too often. The list, in case you’re curious or feeling charitable:

In order of most-in-need

Shadow Wood Lab
The trailer park just south of 74 by the train tracks
Mostly used largely by poor Latin@ kids and (potentially) undocumented workers
Community Journalism lab, could make great use of iMovie
Run by CU Citizen Access, who will be responsible for upkeep
http://www.communityinformaticsprojects.org/files/PESCE2012.pdf

New Hope Academy
After school program and safe space in north Champaign
Kids computer lab and adult public computer lab
Will be the main computing center for the successor to the Dorsey Homes house project
GSLIS Alumni and UFL librarian Joel Spencer will help ensure upkeep
http://www.communityinformaticsprojects.org/files/PESCE2012.pdf


Rantoul Public Library, children’s computer lab
Technical librarian Violet Lapine will take care of it and could use it for tutoring
Their kids computers are already all macs, so it fits well
Library serves a community with high unemployment and poverty

Eagle’s Nest Homeless Services Center
Located in East St. Louis
Run by Martha Watts, a friend
No one to do upkeep aside from the occasional visit by GSLIS students from LIS451
I’d take it down next visit


Tap In Leadership Academy

After school program for underprivileged youth
http://www.tapinacademy.org/about.html
GSLIS students under assistantships will ensure upkeep
Probably tax-deductable, but would take considerable effort

Back to Gender and Videogames

Figured it’s about time to score another feminist gamer post. I’ve often appreciated MovieBob’s strong statements on body types in gaming, and so when another video blogger on the Escapist had one I thought I’d throw in.

Jimquisition is an admittedly awkward guy, especially compared to Yahtzee or Bob, but really this particular site is all about the nerdery, so I happily give him props for things like his complaints against absurd DRM. His latest, however, left me in a bit of a tangle:

I mean, he’s right, we should have more female characters represented in games like this. But what I’m sure he knows is that there’s a cultural dimension beyond production costs and hit boxes. I’d like to believe I’m a pretty level-headed feminist, but if you showed me a video of a woman getting punched in the face and then a man getting smacked in the very same manner – all context suspended – I’d probably feel worse about the woman. I know that’s a potentially sexist reaction, but I think it probably ports to games – our fantasies get busted up if we see women getting shot, cut and blown up in games. I already think it’s quite unfortunate we’re so immune to fantasy violence, I’m not sure that I want us to be immune to fantasy violence against women. And, likely, Jimquisition would agree, given his stance against rape in fantasy games and his identification of women as simultaneously sexualized and brutalized in games.

I also worry that the addition of female body types risks what Professor Lisa Nakamura posited as identity tourism. Given that many (read: most) women are turned off by the gore and sheer aggression present in many FPS games I think we’d be looking at a lot more guys playing female models. This might not be a problem, necessarily, but if these guys start to fulfill sexist stereotypes in the women they play (see Lori Kendall’s statement in Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub… or just take a look at the play guides for Janna in League of Legends, the biggest online game these days) then we risk worsening the situation.

So what’s my opinion? Well, I think we should have more female body types in games, but please, could we work on toning back the violence? These spoiled 14 year old boys immersed in Call of Duty end up as engineering students forced to take my classes and have no idea how to have empathy for other human beings. It’s hard work repairing them – they don’t really like listening to a “pussy” like me when they’re too busy “raping” their math exams. I’m not saying the violence in videogames is directly linked to sexism, I just find the hyper-competitive survival-of-the-fittest ultra-aggressive types feast on that ish.

Or, at least, often that’s my perception. Happy Monday all!

Pennies

I’ve been protesting pennies for a long time by not using them, but how is it we might actually get rid of them? There are so many things like this that should be altered on a Federal level that I have no ability to influence. A short and unfinished list:

  • Pennies
  • Daylight savings time
  • Copyright
  • The electoral system and campaign funding
  • Fiberoptics or an equivalent US-wide internet network
  • Measures of digital literacy in public education
  • Maybe power grid infrastructure