Narrowing Down Wikipedians’ Gender Gap: Vancouver is to Host Its First Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon

by Adrian Diaz 20516_10152835781894387_2677854182477410472_n

If you were to physically enter the virtual meeting room of active Wikipedians, the affectionate name given to the thousands of volunteer editors of the popular free online encyclopedia, you would quickly notice an odd demographic distribution. Nearly nine out of every tenth person in that room would be male. Given that Wikipedia’s registration form does not collect their users’ gender information, the exact figures are uncertain. However, several surveys have revealed that only between 9% and 13% of the editors are female.

This gender gap is not the only issue: the phenomenon extends to the site’s content, as entries about women and related topics are far less researched, developed, and discussed than their male counterparts. Last year, a New York Wikimedia group organized the first ever Art+Feminism Edit-athon meetup group, an event designed to encourage women and allies to edit and create missing entries to Wikipedia’s knowledge-base on female artists and feminist art theory. This year, with the support of the University of British Columbia (UBC), the Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG), and Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECUAD), UBC visual art instructor Christine D’Onofrio has brought this event to Vancouver.

Image credit: Albert Lee, The Daily Texan

Image credit: Albert Lee, The Daily Texan

Earlier this week as I stepped into the physical room at the Vancouver Art Gallery where Christine was hosting the second of two pre-event training sessions, the make-up of the attendees had appropriately inverted to a predominantly female audience. The information session covered a wide range of topics, from issues pertaining the gender gap to Wikipedia’s official Core Content Policies to the potential challenges they may pose to this year’s Edit-a-thon. For an art-centric event, the main challenge will most likely be finding visual sources that comply with Wikipedia’s image license policies. For those who chose to create new entries, they will need to defend their choice of topics; they should demonstrate notability or “significant coverage in independent sources” of a verifiable nature as explained by Patrick Earley, a veteran Vancouver-based Wikipedia editor and Community Advocate for the Wikimedia Foundation. Despite these challenges, this year’s Vancouver edition of Art+Feminism Edit-a-thon is determined to improve the breadth and quality of articles for female artists with an emphasis given to Vancouver-based ones.

Image credit: Michael Mandiberg, ArtNews

Image credit: Michael Mandiberg, ArtNews

The first editing session took place last Friday, March 6 at ECUAD’s library (1400 Johnston St., Granville Island) from 11am to 5pm. Today, another Emily Carr session is taking place between 1 and 5pm. For those wishing to edit from UBC’s campus, the edit-a-thon is taking place both Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm at Buchanan B204/B202 (1866 Main Mall). Patrick Earley is present at UBC today, Saturday, as a Wikipedia representative. Anyone interested in advancing research on female artists is encouraged to participate. For more event details and to RSVP, visit the Wikipedia page, where you may also let fellow editors know which articles you’re interested in improving by stamping your username. This event and a number of similar events taking place internationally, will certainly improve the content landscape of the continuously evolving online resource.

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