In Focus 14th December, 2016

Women in Struggles – Wikipedia Editing Workshop at Tata Institute of Social Sciences.

Wikipedia and students share a special relationship and I am certain all of us have some or the other personal experience to vouch for it (Ha-ha!). Keeping this in mind i.e the story of a happy companionship we thought, would it not be fantastic if students could edit/create wikipedia pages as a project/assignment?

This brilliant idea came to us when we were in a conversation with Shilpa Phadke who is currently working at the School of Media and Cultural Studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). We decided to organise a two-day wikipedia editing workshop with the first year batch of Media and Cultural Studies students along with the Centre for Internet and Society. We organised this workshop on 1st and 2nd December at the TISS, Mumbai campus itself. This was the first time that we were conducting a wikipedia editing event with a student group adopting a workshop format.

The theme that we decided on for this event was “women in struggles”. Almost, 2-3 weeks before the actual date of the workshop the theme was introduced to the students and then there was a process of listing down names of women or women-led campaigns/movements who lack representation or satisfactory representation on wikipedia. From this list, students chose their topic and began with the research. We had shared a few links with the participants which explained what kind of sources are acceptable according to wikipedia policies. This guided the students as they worked on listing down references for their respective topics.

We had 23 students participate in the workshop. Some of them worked in pairs while the rest worked individually. A total of 15 wikipedia pages were worked upon, 13 being new pages that were created and 2 being old existing pages which were edited. The pages that the students worked on are as follows:

  1. Girls At Dhabas
  2. Essar Batool
  3. Pinjra Tod
  4. Living Smile Vidya
  5. Rajkumari Devi
  6. Right to pee campaign
  7. Kovilpatti Veeralaxmi
  8. Babytai Kamble
  9. Why Loiter
  10. Chitralekha
  11. Ginni Mahi
  12. Rukhmabai
  13. Aruna Roy
  14. Stop Acid Attacks
  15. Pads Against Sexism

P.S:These pages are currently in the review process and have not been hosted on the main wikipedia page.

The two day workshop followed a fairly simple structure. The first few hours were spent understanding the basics of wikipedia editing and the wikipedia policies. The rest of the time was spent on working on the pages.

The essence of these workshops or edit-a-thons has always been to expand the wikipedia editing community. This expansion does not necessarily have to be measured in the number of pages worked upon or how many participants started editing regularly, rather the distinct experience of each group, each new community that is formed. The essence has always been to create a space for dialogue where we can challenge the lack of representation of topics and perspectives of marginalised groups, a space where the politics of language can be explored and understood, a space where there is a constant conversation about the existing wikipedia policies and community itself. And, these collaborations with student groups help us move forward in this direction.

Further, we had hoped to tap on interest areas such as research and writing which we had hoped would be easy to find in a social science post graduate college and that definitely was the case. We were also delighted to see the use of academic sources to edit/create wikipedia pages. Overall, the workshop was a huge success and we are now certain of the potential that student collaborations hold and will definitely be exploring more of these in the future.

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