“Writing up rather than writing down”: Becoming Wikipedia Literate

Fail Whale by Flickr CC BY NC SA

Stuart Geiger and I will be presenting our paper about Wikipedia literacy in Linz, Austria for WikiSym 2012 (link below). It’s in the short paper series in which we introduce the concept of of “trace literacy”, a multi-faceted theory of literacy that sheds light on what new knowledges and organizational forms are required to improve participation in Wikipedia’s communities. The paper focuses on three short case studies about the misunderstandings resulting from article deletions in the past year and relate them to three key problems that literacy practitioner and scholar, Richard Darville outlined in his English literacy research. Two of the case studies are from interviews that we did with Kenyan Wikipedians, and the other concerns the Haymarket affair article controversy. Literacy, we believe, has a lot more to do with users being able to understand the complex traces left by experienced editors and how, where and when to argue their case, than simply learning how MediaWiki syntax works.

“Writing up rather than writing down”: Becoming Wikipedia Literate H. Ford and S. Geiger, WikiSym ’12, Aug 27–29, 2012, Linz, Austria

2 thoughts on ““Writing up rather than writing down”: Becoming Wikipedia Literate

  1. The Messer-Kruse Haymarket incident is actually a rather fascinating one and in a short amount, you’ve covered the literacy part of it very well. In addition, what was noted by others later was also the issue that, because Kruse was “challenging” all of the aforementioned research on the subject, it would be inappropriate of us to just assume that he was correct. Instead, this is a situation that requires patience, as was decided on the talk page and I was involved in the discussion, we have to wait until his article is reviewed by the historian community in their scholarly journals, to see if the historian community agrees with his challenging statements. If they do, then those would give his book the weight it requires for us to rewrite the article. But, without that, any changes to the article beyond mentioning in a separate sentence or two that he was challenging the rest of the history, would be an undue weight scenario.

    That’s why there was so much resistance to his editing, because he was attempting to rewrite the article completely to conform to the historical position he had made in his book.

    It also, admittedly, didn’t help that he became very…emotional when he didn’t get his way. I mean, writing that Chronicle of Higher Education article and all the interviews he’s done since won’t exactly endear him to the editors that are trying to make the Haymarket article the best possible and in the right way.

  2. Those are really great points, Sterling. I guess I would say that there are many cases where information sticks despite the fact that it hasn’t yet been reviewed by historians. The way that editors conduct themselves – whether they know what it is to be strategic on wiki – seems to prevail much more than whether their actions accord to policy or not.

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