Nudging: Beyond Wikipedia: Who Edits?

Sadly, I missed the presentation by Wikipedia’s Sue Gardner at ALA Annual this year. However, I heard from others that she encouraged librarians to populate Wikipedia. And that’s an interesting idea. Years ago, before logins were required on Wikipedia, I did edit an entry, adding the newest book to an author’s list of publications. Hardly controversial (and my contribution was easily verified). But I haven’t added anything to it since. And maybe I should.

But it turns out the average Wikipedia editor isn’t the average American. According to an interview with Gardner in the April 2011 issue of Fast Company, only 13% of Wikipedia’s editors are women. (See also this transcript from NPR.) Early 2009 saw Wikipedia lose 49,000 editors, which raises questions of who is watching the store, even if the store has a lot of awesome content. And 2009 statistics (Angwin & Fowler 2009)showed that the average editor was 26 – 27 years old and a bit trigger-happy in rejecting the edits of new editors (elsewhere — and I haven’t been able to track this down, so take it with a grain of salt — I have read that editors are overwhelmingly Caucasian as well). We’re not a male-dominated, white intellectual culture anymore, and we have not been for some time, so this information should give us pause.

Many librarians have taken pride, over the past decades, in developing collections that reflect a multicultural, multilingual, and multiethnic perspective. How does that value translate into Wikipedia and, more generally, into digital resources in general? Food for thought.

Meanwhile, poor “David” is struggling in the scenario below. Give him a hand, and ou could see your name in print! Besides the fun of being in print, it can be awfully useful at this decision-making time of year to show your administrator that you have ideas worth publishing!

Angwin, Julia, and Geoffrey A. Fowler. 2009. Volunteers Log Off As Wikipedia Ages. Wall Street Journal, November 23, Eastern Edition. http://www.proquest.com.proxy.lib.umich.edu/ (accessed July 17, 2011).



One Response to “Nudging: Beyond Wikipedia: Who Edits?”

  1. Jan Dohner says:

    Perhaps David needs to share the Common Core Standards with this teachers in a gentle way, especially the parts about teaching primary vs secondary sources and the need to authenticate your research sources. Wikipedia articles are never primary sources and they are poor secondary sources since they are anonymous and the author’s expertise can’t be verified. I tell my students that Wikipedia is fine if you don’t really care if the the information is accurate, but probably isn’t fine if you do – or if you care about your grade!

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