Monday, March 31, 2014

Wikipedia's Woman Problem

My first thought when looking over the selection of articles for this week was a topic that was discussed in a class last semester, touching on Wikipedia and the problems related to crowdsourcing.  Reading Daniel Kriess' article on how peer production isn't always as positive a force as it is presented only made me think of this particular controversy more strongly.  Last year, in April, a female author noticed that other female authors were being removed "systematically" from the "American Novelists" category on Wikipedia, and being moved into their own separate category "American Women Novelists".  The removal of these women from the broader category was problematic because it then presented the narrative, if you were only looking for "American Novelists" (as most people might reasonably do), that only American novelists were men.  There was no category created for "American Male Novelists".  The author, Amanda Filipacchi, posted an op-ed piece about this disturbing edit to the New York Times website.  She then subsequently posted another op-ed that reported her personal Wikipedia page being vandalized after her initial publication.

Kriess critically examines 5 (positive) claims about peer production in his article, three of which seem relevant to this behavior: "(1) Pursuing psychologically gratifying labor within peer production is an unqualified good; (2) Peer networks are an egalitarian and efficient means of producing information
goods; (3) Peer production necessarily realizes ethical relationships between collaborators;" and it's very interesting to see that his skepticism is somewhat warranted.

The two op-ed pieces in question are:

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