We are delighted to announce that we have received seed funding from the Wikimedia Foundation for a joint project between Parlour, Architexx (New York) and n-ails (Berlin) to increase the representation of women architects on Wikipedia.
Read our proposal below. The report on the project is available here.
What is the Problem?
The problem we seek to address has a number of interrelated components.
1. Limited presence of women architects
There is a very limited presence of women involved in architecture and the built environment disciplines on Wikipedia, and the entries that do exist are inconsistent in their coverage and quality. This is part of a broader situation in which women are underrepresented as both subjects and contributors on Wikipedia as a whole. Despina Stratigakos clearly outlines the context and implications of this imbalance for architecture in her essay “Unforgetting Women Architects: From the Pritzker to Wikipedia“.
2. Complexities around ‘notability’ in the context of architectural production and history
Adding women architects is not always a clear or straightforward matter. Many significant women architects have been forgotten by history and not all ‘notable’ contemporary women have large media footprints to use in inline citations – adding them to Wikipedia is part of the process of writing them into history. As Tania Davidge points out in her recent essay, “Notability comes in many shapes and sizes … We need to make space for women in architecture but we also need to remember that making space for women in architecture is not always about valuing the notable in its traditional sense but also re-evaluating the definition of notability within the profession itself.”
During a recent one-day international wiki-editing program to add women architects, new contributors encountered resistance from some other Wikipedia editors, who questioned the ‘notability’ of some entries and quickly deleted others. Entries on subjects who did not have a large digital footprints were challenged, despite substantial citations to material available in analog formats.
This means new Wikipedia contributors need to have a detailed understanding of the ‘notability’ criteria, we need to strategise to ensure that important women architects can be framed in relevant ways, and ensure that entries are written in a way that lessens questions as to notability or relevance. We also need to have active and ongoing presence in discussions about notability.
3. Limited familiarity with Wikipedia on the part of those with expert subject knowledge
Lastly, many of the people who have expertise in this area are not familiar with the process and protocols of writing Wikipedia entries, and some find it an intimidating environment. Our grant will create more concerted organized efforts in educating those with the knowledge required to write effective, high-quality Wikipedia entries.
What is your solution?
We will develop an international education and advocacy program that will enable more women and men to write Wikipedia articles on women in architecture and the built environment. We will do this by developing and sharing knowledge and skills among existing professional networks, and by expanding these networks. This will include providing writing and editing workshops along with online resources. This will create a momentum that will engage a broad range of participants, who would not otherwise become involved in editing Wikipedia. It will help create an environment in which more women see a roles for themselves as Wikipedia writers, and will build support networks between new editors and established Wikipedians.
This builds upon a successful pilot program established by Architexx, WikiD: Women Wikipedia Design, which saw groups convene all over the world on International Women’s Day 2015 to write women architects into Wikipedia. This was actively supported by many groups including Parlour: women, equity, architectureand n-ails. Writing workshops were held in the United States, Australia, Germany, Canada, Ireland, Spain, and Portugal. 50 new entries were contributed from the US, 23 new entries from Australia and more from other countries. These entries were made by a small number of participants, most of whom where new to Wikipedia. However, it generated significant interest among a much wider group, and raised considerable interest in an ongoing program to add women in the built environment to Wikipedia. This project was run using existing very limited resources, and was conducted with entirely volunteer labour.
There is now a clear understanding among the architectural communities in these countries that there is much more work to be done, and a willingness among many women to get involved. This new phased initiative will provide focus and resources to ensure that the momentum already developed is built on effectively and that it extends to an even broader audience. It will ensure that new Wikipedia editors have the skills and resources to write high quality articles that begin to redress the gender imbalance.