February 23, 2016

Art + Feminism Edit-a-thon aims to close Wikipedia gender gap

How do notable women show up in Wikipedia if all the editors are men? The short answer is they often don't. The Third Annual Art + Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon aims to close Wikipedia's gender gap by creating a more robust presence of notable women in art, while also increasing the number of women Wikipedia editors.

Organized as part of the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, this year’s local event is Saturday, March 5, 11 a.m.–5 p.m. at Minneapolis Central Library.

“The absence of notable women artists on Wikipedia represents a huge hole in the world’s largest digital encyclopedia — which has the power to shape public understanding of the arts,” says Amy Hamlin, associate professor of art history and co-chair of the event’s organizing committee.
Leading search engines like Google and Yahoo, as well as Siri and Apple’s “intelligence personal assistant” will often navigate first to Wikipedia from keyword searches.

The solution? Create new pages, or expand existing pages about women artists — and have the editing done largely by women. By Wikipedia’s own research, only 13 percent of its editors are female.

“That’s a huge problem, and why this initiative is also focused on bringing more women into the fold. This isn’t about axes to grind. It’s about creating parity,” says Hamlin.

As a University faculty member, Hamlin grapples with embracing a platform that students are discouraged from using as a primary source in academic research.

“Let’s face it, Wikipedia is ground zero. It’s often the first step in student research,” she explains. “But what happens if our young people don’t find an artist referenced in Wikipedia? They may feel that person isn’t significant enough to pursue in their research.”

Inaugurated in February 2014 by a group of Wikipedia users in New York City, the initiative has since inspired over 75 satellite Art + Feminism Wikipedia edit-a-thons worldwide, including several in the Twin Cities.

Hamlin points to the chain reaction and growing momentum of the initiative as good news.

“Each meet-up brings new participants, who in turn spread the word about the initiative and raise awareness about the importance of media literacy,” says Hamlin. “This is ultimately good for our democracy and building civic engagement.”

Results so far are encouraging. Last year’s global effort alone resulted in nearly 400 new pages and significant improvements to 500 articles on Wikipedia.

event logistics

Minneapolis Central Library is located at 300 Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.

More resources can be found on the Wikipedia event page.

Citizens of all gender identities and expressions are invited to participate in this communal updating of Wikipedia’s entries on art and feminism. No editing experience necessary, but participants are encouraged to bring laptops if they have them.

Coordinated in conjunction with the Guerrilla Girls Twin Cities Takeover, this year’s event is co-organized by the American Craft Council, Hennepin County Libraries, Mia, Midway Contemporary Art, St. Catherine University and Walker Art Center.

Related content:

Six degrees of St. Kate's (Amy Hamlin and "Art History That")

By Sharon Rolenc