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About three months ago, I blogged about potential explanations for Wikipedia’s diversity problems (see “‘Middle-aged White Guys’“). Last weekend, a truly bordercrossing crowd gathered in Berlin to discuss strategies for addressing these problems at the first Wikimedia Diversity Conference. Due to other commitments I was not able to take part the whole time but I have enjoyed most of the sessions I was able to attend.

Since there is extensive documentation on most of the sessions available online, I will only highlight some of my personal insights:

  • In her talk on “Diversifying India through outreach among women“, Netha Hussain emphasized the importance of Wikipedia Zero to increase participation in countries, where mere Internet access is not self-evident. Wikipedia Zero enables mobile access, free of data charges, to Wikipedia in developing countries via cooperations with local internet service providers. While some criticize the initiative because of it being a violation of net neutrality principles (see, for example, this mailing-list discussion), it really seems to be a great opportunity to lower access barriers in poorer countries.

Wikipedia_Zero_Logo_and_photo Read the rest of this entry »

„Welcome to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit.“ This inviting welcome message is placed right on top of the English Wikipedia’s main page. Similarly, the vision of the Wikimedia Foundation, the formal non-profit organization behind Wikipedia, reads as follows: „Imagine a World in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge.“

Both these lines represent the utopia of digital inclusiveness. ‘Anyone’ should have the possibility to contribute to Wikipedia’s quest for collecting the world’s knowledge. ‘Every single human being’ shall take part in this digital knowledge exchange. In Wikipedia’s early years, critics questioned whether this radical openness allowed for a high-quality encyclopedia to emerge. The main concern was how quality and neutrality of the Wikipedia could be preserved when anyone can change, delete or amend anything at any time (in 2005, for example, the Guardian asked “Can you trust Wikipedia?“).

Responding to these questions, Jim Giles compared in a Nature article (2005) Wikipedia and the renowned Encyclopedia Britannica and found a similar number of errors in both encyclopedias; more recent studies confirm these results with different methodologies (see, for example, Rodrigues 2013). Furthermore, Wikipedia’s quality management became much more sophisticated over the years, for example by introducing “sighted versions” checked by experienced Wikipedians. And even though there are still regularly reports on manipulated or wrong articles in Wikipedia, the end of print encyclopedias nevertheless made it the undisputed winner in the battle of encyclopedias. Today it is hardly possible to make an online search without finding a Wikipedia reference prominently placed in the results list. Wikipedia has effectively become the central directory of world’s knowledge. Read the rest of this entry »

The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
October 2021

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