I believe that open practice is important because I believe that the general public deserves access to high quality, accurate information. A general public that has access to high quality, accurate information can (in theory) make more informed decisions. Informed decisions are (in theory) better decisions. And (in theory) better decisions should lead us toward a better society. It is partly for this reason that the practice of open for me takes on a moral and ethical dimension.
But when 1.2 million people look at the Wikipedia article on the EU on the day after the 2016 UK EU referendum, compared to just 56,000 the day before, one can sometimes be left wondering what the point is.
This session reflects on a number of projects where open practice, civic engagement and activism overlap, in the process of engaging with the Wikimedia projects. Case studies include collaborations between Wikimedia UK and Amnesty International to create biographies of women human rights defenders, the Art+Feminism campaign, aimed at increasing the coverage of gender, feminism and the arts on Wikipedia, Edinburgh University’s work on data visualisation and the Survey of Scottish Witchcraft, and the Dumfries Stonecarving Project, a year long community heritage project which utilised the Wikimedia projects to surface forgotten community history.
Engagement with the Wikimedia projects has been mapped against various digital, data and information literacy frameworks,(1) and Wikimedia UK (who carried out that piece of research) count these literacies as an important part of their strategy, as well as increasing the engagement & representation of marginalised people and subjects.(2) The Wikimedia Foundation’s own strategy is moving toward Knowledge Equity and Knowledge as a Service, all of which point to a sympathy between open knowledge practice and social justice.(3)
One of Wikipedia’s central tenets is that of Neutral Point of View, but that community is also aware of its own issues with systemic bias, especially around gender. It has been well documented how some countries have banned or sought to restrict access to Wikipedia, (including Turkey, China, and Russia), and in this way we understand providing free access to information as a political – and in some contexts radical – act.
This session will consider the potential, and the limitations, of Wikimedia project engagement as open education for civic engagement and democracy, and ask if information literacy should be considered a key skill for effective participation in citizenship.
(1) Bruszik, A; Nevell, R; Balfour, S (2018). The Potentials of Wikimedia Projects in Digital, Information and Data Literacy
Development (UK context). Wikimedia UK. [online] Wikimedia.org.uk. Available at https://wikimedia.org.uk/w/images/d/d9/Digital_Literacy_-_The_Wikimedia_Way_-_June_2018.pdf [Accessed 06.12.19]
(2) Wikimedia UK (2019). Wikimedia UK Strategy 2019–22 [online] Wikimedia.org.uk. Available at https://wikimedia.org.uk/wiki/Wikimedia_UK_Strategy_2019%E2%80%9322 [Accessed 06.12.19]
(3) Meta-Wiki (2018). Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20 [online] meta.wikimedia.org Available at https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Strategy/Wikimedia_movement/2018-20 [Accessed 06.12.19]