In this episode, University staff (Kirsty Lingstadt), students (Hannah Rothmann, Grace King and Lucy Parfitt) and Wikimedians (Ewan McAndrew and Richard Nevell) discuss Wikimedia’s current role within academia and hypothesise what that role can be in the future. This episode is the first of our Wikimedia Series, which aims to recontextualise Wikimedia’s role in academia on its 20th anniversary.
The group’s conversation begins with each member detailing how they use Wikipedia in their work. The discussion features a variety of perspectives, with Grace, Lucy and Hannah speaking on how they use it as students, Kirsty bringing in the library’s perspective, and Ewan and Richard introducing their work directly with Wikimedia. The participants find commonalities amongst their uses, such as using Wikipedia to familiarize oneself with a subject or as a ‘jumping-off’ point for research.
The conversation then expands to covering Wikipedia’s current role within academia, entertaining the effect that Wikipedia’s reputation has on its use within universities. The group gets curious about this idea – if anyone can edit Wikipedia, how reliable can it be? They discuss the importance of questioning sources and the role of doing so in engaging with Wikipedia, along with the digital skills gained through learning to edit an article or page.
I think the big misconception that I, and I think a lot of undergraduates, their tutors and professors have is that if anyone can go in and edit this information, what’s the point essentially? Which is quite strange, I guess because I think that’s what we should want about an information source. In actually learning how to edit it and create stuff using those tools, and I was struck just by how much it’s regulated. Even things like if a page did not have enough citations, it’s very quick.
The conversation then turned towards Wikipedia’s potential role in academia, posing fascinating questions such as: Could Wikipedia be a middle ground between academia and the public? What are the strengths of having a community-created online encyclopedia which changes with time? And in an ideal world, what is the role of Wikipedia in academia? What can it be?
This episode serves as a fantastic re-introduction to Wikipedia, and we hope it helps listeners join in on recontextualizing Wikipedia’s role in academia on its 20th anniversary.
Ewan McAndrew, our Wikimedian in Residence, provided the following resources for anyone interested in further readings regarding Wikimedia:
- Wikipedia on Olive Schreiner, like it or what?
- Wikimedia in Education (collection of case studies)
- How Wikipedia keeps political discourse from turning ugly (Harvard Business Review article)
- Why didn’t Wikipedia have an article on Donna Strickland, winner of a Nobel Prize? (Wikipedia Foundation article)
- Female Nobel prize winner deemed not important enough for Wikipedia entry (additional article about Donna Strickland from the Guardian)
- Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence at The University of Edinburgh
- Richard Nevell, Programme Coordinator at Wikimedia UK
- Grace King, History Student at The University of Edinburgh
- Kirsty Lingstadt, Deputy Director of Library and University Collections at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Library, Archives and Learning Services at the University of York
- Lucy Parfitt, History Student and President of the University of Edinburgh’s History Society
- Hannah Rothmann, Classics Student and Wikimedia Student Intern at The University of Edinburgh
Series produced and edited by:
Eric is a Mathematics and Statistics student at The University of Edinburgh, and a podcasting intern for Teaching Matters. Eric is passionate about university student mental health, interviewing researchers for the Student Mental Health Research Network at King’s College London, leading the University of Edinburgh’s WellComm Kings Peer Support Scheme, and conducting research on stigma for People With Mental Illnesses (PWMI). In his free time, he enjoys watching and playing sports, over-analysing hip-hop songs, podcasts, and any sort of wholesome shenanigans.