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PWR's In the Spotlight

Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon Poster

On Tuesday, October 24th, the Program in Writing and Rhetoric; Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies; the University Libraries; and English department co-sponsored a Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon hosted by Lane Rasberry, a Wikipedia editor, and Marika Cifor, from the Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies department at Bowdoin College.  This event was funded by a TALENT grant, provided by the Stony Brook University Faculty Center, with SB's Women’s Gender, and Sexuality Studies department since data shows that there is a real gender bias in Wikipedia and diverse editors are needed to correct this. Rasberry emphasized the wide global reach of Wikipedia and the enormous impact that it has on free information. Stony Brook University Libraries was also a co-sponsor of the event.


The program was well-attended, with WRT 102 and WRT 302: Writing for the New Media professors bringing their classes, as well as graduate students and faculty members attending independently. At this event, students and faculty identified topics that they were interested in, identified credible sources in that topic, and used those to strengthen existing Wikipedia articles.  Professor Kristina Lucenko from the Program in Writing and Rhetoric said that students themselves decided how much work to do on each article,
with most adding a sentence or two to add a citation or clarify a statement instead of creating new articles. Three important goals of the program. Professor Lucenko said, were to familiarize students with different types of credible sources, to show students how to write for a specific audience, and to actively engage students and faculty in the important project of diversifying Wikipedia and, by extension, examining how knowledge is constructed as a result of bias. Wikipedia article readers are largely non-experts in the topic, so it is crucial that these articles be written in a way that they can understand. According to Professor Lucenko, students can often get so used to writing in an academic style that they do not consider how to express information for a wider, outside audience. And according to a 2011 Wikimedia Foundation Wikipedia editor survey, only about 8.5-16 percent of Wikipedia editors are women, which has resulted in skewed content and a lack of coverage of notable women, among other issues. A diverse group of editors--women, people of color, ethnic/minority and marginalized peoples, and LBGTQ--is essential to shaping this source of global knowledge.

The Edit-a-Thon was one event in the week-long Open Access Week, which raises awareness for open access and open education and for how the university can promote these.  Other events included a symposium with various speakers and presenters in the field of open communication. (Spotlight by Katherine Holt)


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