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Cuesta professors, students aim to end Wikipedia gender gap, one edit at a time

Art+Feminism Edit-a-Thon: Ending the gender gap on Wikipedia

Cuesta College professor and event participant Michelle Craig explains the importance of giving women more of a voice as editors of Wikipedia. The Cuesta College Fine Arts Department hosted a local version of the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon
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Cuesta College professor and event participant Michelle Craig explains the importance of giving women more of a voice as editors of Wikipedia. The Cuesta College Fine Arts Department hosted a local version of the Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon

The English-language version of Wikipedia includes more than 5 million articles and more than 30 million registered contributors, called Wikipedians. But although the collaboratively written online encyclopedia has become ubiquitous in modern culture, fewer than 10 percent of Wikipedians are women, according to the Wikimedia Foundation.

Now, a nationwide movement has formed to end that gender gap, one edit at a time.

For the past four years, the nationwide “Art+Feminism Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” event has sought to address the imbalance and provide a stronger online resource. On Wednesday, the Cuesta College Fine Arts Department hosted a local version of the event for the second year in a row.

More than 280 edit-a-thons have taken place across the world since 2014, “creating and improving an estimated 4,600 articles,” according to an event news release.

“If you ever read Wikipedia, there’s just information that’s lacking in all aspects,” said Inga Dorosz, a Cuesta College art appreciation and 2-D design professor, as well an organizer for the local event.

Dorosz was one of a handful of faculty and students to kick off the event Wednesday afternoon. Others in attendance included Michelle Craig, art history professor; Marcia Harvey, printmaking professor; Cole Corrigan, kinesiology student; and Brooke Molnar, nursing student. The participants gathered around an art classroom table covered with reference books and laptops.

“We are improving Wikipedia,” Craig said.

The four-hour event came as many Cuesta students were hard at work studying for or taking tests, but organizers were confident that more people would come as they were able.

Though the event was held in the Cuesta College Fine Arts Department, Harvey said the public also was encouraged to join.

“We do want the public to come, not just college students,” she said.

Craig said that expanding Wikipedian diversity makes the online encyclopedia more useful.

“This edit-a-thon is to broaden the base of knowledge that’s available on Wikipedia, to include more female voices,” she said.

Additionally, encouraging more people to take up the figurative editing pen builds good research and critical thinking habits that people can use throughout their lives, Craig said.

As an art history professor, Craig decided to spend part of Wednesday afternoon checking art history-related Wikipedia pages, asking questions such as “are seminal works cited” and determining if those citations are timely. She said she found one page “where all of the sources are from the ’60s.”

Participants hunched over laptops and pored through books — Corrigan even used his smartphone to make edits.

He spent part of Wednesday editing the page for ukiyo-e, a Japanese woodcut style that, according to Wikipedia, “flourished in Japan from the 17th through 19th centuries.”

Both Corrigan and Molnar said this was their first year participating in the edit-a-thon. Corrigan said he got involved because “the (Art+Feminism) title drew me in.”

Though this year marks the Cuesta College Fine Arts Department’s sophomore effort, Harvey said she was confident it would happen again in 2018, and that she hoped more people would be drawn in.

“Let’s say every year, same Bat-channel,” Harvey said.

More information about the event, including how to register as a Wikipedian and plans for next year’s edit-a-thon, is available by emailing Craig at michelle_craig1@cuesta.edu or Dorosz at inga_dorosz@cuesta.edu.

Andrew Sheeler: 805-781-7929, @andrewsheeler

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