Tag Archives: crowd-source

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.



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.