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Michael Mandiberg

Edit-A-Thon

Wikipedia Meets Feminism

Women artists and historical figures have gotten short shrift on the Internet. It’s time to organize to fight that gender bias.

Does your favorite female artist or historical figure have a Wikipedia page? Having an article on the world’s largest encyclopedia is a sign of cultural recognition and acknowledgement, but Wikipedia has left women out of accounts of major historical movements and art periodization.

On Saturday, I was one of several co-organizers of the Wikipedia: Meetup/Art And Feminism at the Eyebeam Art and Technology Center in New York City, an event that sought to rectify gender prejudices in everyday Internet search results. More than 150 attendees focused on adding articles on and improving content about women artists. Some 30 other universities and arts institutions from San Francisco to Florence, Italy participated in the event remotely.

Eyebeam’s edit-a-thon is a sign that the worldwide Wikipedia movement getting more organized, more political, and more willing to confront the systematic biases of its information. Thousands of edit-a-thons have occurred since the first was held at the British Museum in 2010. 

As a Wikipedian-in-Residence at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, my work is to add archival content to Wikipedia and encourage institutions to donate their authority information to the public domain— another example of the site’s efforts to increase the reputability and scope of its articles. I’ve also found that libraries and archives, still largely female fields, have been some of the first to embrace Wikipedia editing at an institutional level.

But one hurdle in editing Wikipedia articles about female artists is that many women were confronted with systematic biases from an early time in their careers and as such were reviewed and profiled less frequently than male peers. These harsh realities can make it difficult to find the sources required by Wikipedia. What’s needed now is what we might call a project of feminist information activism, and a cross-generational commitment to writing-in female and feminist artists into history.

Last weekend’s events produced more than 90 new Wikipedia articles, expanded or improved over 70 articles, and added several dozen images to the public domain image site Wikimedia Commons.

Here are some of my favorites created on the day of the event:  

1. Eve Mosher: Contemporary American environmentalist and public installation artist.

2. Anita Palermo: Argentine cabaret and tango singer.

3. Adrian Piper: American conceptual artist, Guggenheim Fellow, and philosophy professor.

4. N Paradox: International Feminist Art Journal: An academic journal covering feminist art criticism, established in 1996.

5. Eve Andree Laramee: Eco-Feminist artist working in direct-action social sculpture and environmental art.

6. I Love Dick (novel): The first novel by the American writer, and professor Chris Kraus, published by Semiotext(e).

7. Sonia Ebling: Brazilian sculptor and teacher at the School of Fine Arts in Rio Grande.

8. Edna Reindel: American Regionalist and surrealist painter, sculptor, and muralist.

9. Martha Jackson-Jarvis: American, African-American sculptor known for her outdoor urban public sculpture, and site-specific rural sculpture.

10. Isabella Cervoni: Italian poet active in the Counter-Reformation Period between 1590 and 1600.

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