Wikipedia is perhaps the ultimate example of the modern conventional wisdom that the Internet, as a source for research, is “a mile wide and an inch deep.” Much as we have grown to rely on it, it’s still all too common to run across a Wikipedia entry that’s obviously biased, riddled with errors or lacking in crucial tidbits of information about the subject. Sometimes the temptation to join the legions who go in and tinker with the entries is just too powerful to resist, even knowing full well that someone else might go into the very same page an hour later and change it back.
And then of course there’s the whole complicated protocol of registering and establishing your credentials as a “Wikipedian,” which militates to some degree against the website’s alleged democratic spirit of information-sharing. If you’re not already enough of a computer geek to understand what’s on all those tabs behind a Wikipedia entry, the learning curve can seem rather intimidating.
One of the upshots of this user-unfriendly setup is that fewer than 20 percent of Wikipedia editors are women. And that helps explain why entries about great women in various fields are disproportionately scanty. Every so often a group gets together to make an organized effort to rectify this and other imbalances in what Wikipedia covers. Last October, for instance, a couple of female academics from Brown University celebrated Ada Lovelace Day, honoring an eminent English mathematician who died in 1852, by training dozens of faculty members and students in how to add and edit pages to address Wikipedia’s dearth of information on women in the STEM fields.
This Saturday, February 1, arts organizations across the country will host Edit-a-thons with the express purpose of filling some of the more blatant gaps in Wikipedia coverage of the achievements of women artists, both historic and contemporary. The roster of participating institutions includes locations at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York City, the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
In our neck of the woods, Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) will host a local “meetup” at Café East in uptown Kingston (across from the county office building also known as “The Glass Menagerie) on February 1 from 12 noon to 3 p.m. WSW will provide coffee to keep editorial minds stimulated, and guests can opt to purchase additional brain fuel from the special menu that Café East will prepare for the afternoon.
The event is free to attend and open to all who are interested, although female editors are especially encouraged to attend. While no prior Wikipedia editing experience is required, attendees should bring their own laptops and power cords. Activities will range from creating new articles to editing existing content, adding new citations and correcting broken links. Even if the subject of women in art isn’t your particular area of interest or expertise, it’s a great opportunity to hone your Wiki-editing skills and become an active member of the community of contributors to this increasingly essential public resource.
Café East is located at 243 Fair Street in Uptown Kingston. Would-be editors can also participate remotely from home with an Internet connection. To find out more or to RSVP, call WSW at (845) 658-9133 or visit the Art+Feminism Wikipedia homepage at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Meetup/ArtAndFeminism.
Women’s Studio Workshop’s Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, Saturday, February 1, 12-3 p.m., free, Café East, 243 Fair Street, Kingston; (845) 658-9133, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/wikipedia:meetup/artandfeminism.