Wiki-Edits
17/05/20

On the 8th of March 2020, prior to the C19 crisis Part W held an event at the Design Museum in collaboration with Mel Dodd of Central Saint Martins. The event was during International Women’s week. The session was held in a small space in the library and it was open to all, male and female. Zoe Berman gave a talk about how Part W came to be and the erasure of women throughout history as we have seen with the Alternative Gold Medal list. The next talk was from a representative from Wikipedia. He told us how you create a Wikipedia page. It is significant to add women in particular to the Wikipedia as Despina Stratigakos explains in her book Where are the Women Architects? As she reminds us that ‘each of us can be a part of the effort to unforget a woman architect’ (Stratigakos, 2016) by editing Wikipedia as she states that ‘although histories of women are now increasingly available, they have yet to become readily visible.’ (Stratigakos, 2016) Through adding these pages to the site we ensure that women become more visible.

What was really interesting about the event is the inherent gender bias to the work of Wikipedia, ‘The Wikimedia Foundation, which runs Wikipedia, agrees with these criticisms and has made an on-going attempt to increase female editorship of Wikipedia’ (Wikipedia.com, 2020). Stratigakos goes as far to say that the lack of female entries is ‘particularly worrisome’ (Stratigakos, 2016). Former Wikimedia Foundation executive director Sue Gardner cited nine reasons why women don't edit Wikipedia, culled from comments by female Wikipedia editors
1. A lack of user-friendliness in the editing interface
2. Not having enough free time
3. A lack of self-confidence
4. Aversion to conflict and an unwillingness to participate in lengthy edit wars
5. Belief that their contributions are too likely to be reverted or deleted
6. Some find its overall atmosphere misogynistic
7. Wikipedia culture is sexual in ways they find off-putting
8. Being addressed as male is off-putting to women whose primary language has grammatical gender
9. Fewer opportunities than other sites for social relationships and a welcoming tone

Wikimedia has begun encouraging wiki-edits such as these to rebalance the entries to their pages a 2015 survey of contributors to Wikipedia found that less than 15% of contributors were women (Wikipedia.com, 2020). The foundation admitted that the ‘websites culture resists female participation’. The group Parlour in Australia and Architexx in the US has led these so far. This was Part W’s first exposure to this work and we used Parlours wiki-edit guides which are available on their website.

During the session I submitted a page for Matrix Design Co-Operative, following the session it was rejected twice and I had to call upon the help of Justine Clark at Parlour in Australia to help. As Parlour have wiki editors with ‘credit’ and experience, they could push my submission through as they are seen as ‘reliable’ Wikipedia editors. It is much harder for those starting out. Stratigakos highlights how ‘women editors who submit new entries on women’s history routinely find that male editors question their sources and the significance of their topics and are quick to nominate such entries for deletion’ (Stratigakos, 2016) this has happened to a member of Matrix member, Jos Boys, her page is currently under threat.

To fight the mis-representation or under representation of women in architecture we need to shape the Internet to address the inequality represented there. I was sceptical as to how important it is for us to be editing Wikipedia, however when I look to my education and the lack of women I had researched in my younger years at university I realise that a lot of the women we presented on the Part W Alternative List are not on Wikipedia. Therefore we are denying access and further erasing the significance of these women. Matrix have shaped my thinking and have inspired much of my work and when they were rejected due as they were ‘not significant enough’. I could feel the disparity and I could not deny the problem and how vital the work of editing Wikipedia is.

Sarah Ackland