September update

Here’s a repost of the project update from September. I’ll be posting a few topic specific posts in the next few days, including reflections on WikiConference USA, changing course with the brainstorming/list generating process, and what’s at stake in working with experts.

This month was a big month. The most significant accomplishment was hosting the brainstorming session on Sept. 9. I wrote a few blog entries about the logistic process of organizing this event — from food, invitations, etc., which are quite involved even for a small group. Hosting a seamless event takes prep work. We were right on budget, though. Everyone showed up on time, participated, the equipment (for the most part) worked. That meant Sage and I could devote the session to engaging with the participants, as intended, (and not worrying about the event logistics).

Before I jump into discussing the September update any further, let me share that prior to the brainstorming session, one of the participants agreed to do Wikipedia editing with her students! Wonderful news. Matching a class to the project was an unfulfilled goal for August. The title of her undergraduate course is Critical Media Literacy. This instructor will have her students think critically about being a media consumer and producer through engaging with Wikipedia as editors. What is involved in collective knowledge production project? Using WikiED resources and our list as starting points, she will have her 45 students form groups of three and work together to edit a stub or article that needs quite a bit of additions/revisions. They will add something like 500-700 words and 5 references. She’ll share the list we generate with them as a starting point for their revisions.

Her course dedicates the latter half of the quarter to Wikipedia editing. This means the students will start learning the nuts and bolts of Wikipedia editing in November rather than in October as our timeline initially proposed. The final presentation date is set, though, and she’s invited Sage and me to make presentations in November.

Now back to the brainstorming session and the lists! As I described, the list we generated in our brainstorming session was developed on the spot — we didn’t start out with a concrete protocol or format on what form the list would take. My aim was to have this be a part of the conversation. However we did, have a Wiki page mocked up that we could all add to. And this is what we ended up working on as the list. While we devoted the last two hours of our session to “identifying unknown unknowns,” that actually isn’t much time. Instead of discussing at length a concrete format for the list, we decided to let the process of thinking about gaps on Wikipedia be a part of the process of thinking about the format of the list, so we decided to just use the Wiki page to collect our meanderings and criticisms, and discuss as we go along. A benefit of this move was we jumped right into doing analysis — and in working at the same table this process spurred more questions and conversations about what is even editable on Wikipedia. Questions about categories, article classes, and featured article criteria were all raised.

However, not having much in terms of format scaffolding also had drawbacks, which I talk about in a blog devoted specifically to this topic, the list we made was written in a format that is most useful to someone who already is familiar with feminist theory, and covers a wide range of topics without going into depth about what’s on the page.

Thus, I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking about the format the lists and how to redesign/match the lists with another group of editors. How to do this in a different way?

One benefit of a pilot project is that it’s work-in-process. It’s a pilot — not a product. Not having everything work out oh-so perfectly an opportunity to try something else. For October, my aim is to think through how to augment//or// do the list-generating process differently. I seek to explicitly attend to the two goals of being a feminist project and focusing on identifying content related to feminism and technology that’s missing. What is working in the way it’s happening so far, and what might change to better reach these goals?

At the end of September, I found out that I would have the opportunity to present the Gap Finding Project at WikiConference USA in October. How exciting! A big honor. I will write up my reflections on the conference on the blog.

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