June 19, 2019

Research from the University of Washington: Exploring the Gender Gap with Wikipedia Editors

From the University of Washington:

Wikipedia is one of the most successful online communities in history, yet it struggles to attract and retain editors who are women — another example of the gender gap online. In a recent University of Washington study, researchers interviewed women “Wikipedians” to examine the lack of female and non-binary editors in Wikipedia. The team identified a common theme: safety.

“People can get harassed when they’re editing content in Wikipedia,” said co-author Wanda Pratt, a professor in the UW’s Information School. “If you’re constantly getting negative feedback for doing something, how often are you going to do it?”

The researchers presented their results May 9 at the 2019 ACM CHI conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems in Glasgow, Scotland. This video includes some of the authors and participants in the study.

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The team interviewed 25 well-established editors to find out their stories. The conversations revealed that many participants had their edits contested and that some participants felt unsafe within the community.

“In the data we collected, it goes beyond trolling,” said first author Amanda Menking, a doctoral student in the iSchool. “There’s doxxing, which is exposing people’s personal information and where to find them online or in physical space such as their address. Some of the women we talked to received death threats.”

But participants also discussed how they managed their safety both conceptually and physically, and how they acted on this understanding to create safe spaces on and off Wikipedia. In order to navigate Wikipedia and related online communities — for example, Facebook groups — these women use sophisticated tactics for how they manage their online identities, boundaries and emotions.

Read the Complete U. of Washington Article

Direct to Full Text Research Article: People Who Can Take It: How Women Wikipedians Negotiate and Navigate Safety

Gary Price About Gary Price

Gary Price (gprice@mediasourceinc.com) is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at Ask.com, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.

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