Adding anthropological perspectives to Wikipedia

I accompanied Educational Partnerships Manager Jami Mathewson to DC last week where we attended the American Anthropological Association’s 116th annual meeting. We spoke with dozens of instructors about the importance of disseminating academic scholarship to a wider audience. How can we not only increase coverage of anthropology topics on Wikipedia, but also add an anthropological perspective to existing articles?

Our Theories brochure was especially popular at the booth this year, which discusses the production of knowledge as it relates to Wikipedia (the seventh most visited site in the world!). Knowledge doesn’t sit still on Wikipedia; it’s updated to reflect new scholarship and new voices. But much of the work that comes out of Academia doesn’t make it onto this highly-accessed resource. We want to change that. And we see our new partnership with the American Anthropological Association as an important part of this vision.

Public engagement in academic scholarship is possible through a Wikipedia assignment. Students learn how to contribute academic content to Wikipedia and to evaluate the site for content gaps. Students ask themselves—What anthropology topics are missing on Wikipedia? Why might they be missing? What can I do to right this? In evaluating content gaps on Wikipedia and understanding how to address them, students become creators, not just consumers, of knowledge. A Wikipedia assignment also presents students with important questions about knowledge production—Who gets to engage? Whose histories are represented? Whose voices are heard?

As the public engages more and more with digital platforms, sharing academic scholarship on Wikipedia becomes an increasingly important opportunity. In our partnership with the American Anthropological Association, we hope to engage more anthropology courses in contributing to this great resource. We made some great connections at the annual meeting this year. Here’s to adding more topics in social, cultural, and linguistic anthropology to Wikipedia and engaging more voices in the production of that knowledge!


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