Art+ Feminism: Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

This past Saturday, the Asia Art Archives (AAA) and the M+ West Kowloon Cultural District organized a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon aligned with the Art+ Feminism movement. The event was held to commemorate this year’s International Women’s Day, which took place on March 8th.

Held on the 10th floor of the Hollywood Centre in Sheung Wan, the event was attended by 40 people. Some traveled to the location while others participated online. The objective of Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, co-organizers Ozge Ersoy and Ellen Oredsson said, was to ensure that there is correct information available for female and non-binary Asian visual artists on Wikipedia.

The Edit-a-thon was co-organised by the AAA and M+. With two previous events held last year, it is the third of its kind.

According to Lara Day, Senior Manager of Digital and Cross-Platform Content at M+, as a crowdfunded platform Wikipedia is “a reflection of the interests, practices, and biases of the people who edit it”. Ersoy noted that according to recent studies, only 11% of Wikipedia editors identify as women and only 25% of the artists represented on Wikipedia are female. In contrast, the Edit-a-thon had more women in attendance.

Ordesson and Ersoy decided to collaborate on this joint initiative last year. For Ersoy, the Public Programs Lead at AAA, inspiration came from previous Edit-a-thon work being done by librarians and Art+ Feminism. The current event, she said, builds on their work. The collaboration itself came about due to both the AAA and M+ having similar views and end-goals of improving gender representation in Hong Kong’s culture and arts scene. According to Ordesson, who works as a Web Content Editor at M+, “The collaboration has been great and we feel very happy to be working with the AAA on the edit-a-thons, having since expanded to doing edit-a-thons on things like exhibition histories in Asia”.

Participants, referred to as editors, could choose which artists’ pages they wished to work on.

Le Ha Thu Oanh Alicia, a second year BA student at HKU, had heard about the event in November when an Edit-a-thon event was held for Asian art exhibitions that had not been documented on Wikipedia. She returned on Saturday to edit the Wikipedia page of Vietnamese American multi-media artist Tiffany Chung, an artist that she felt a “mutual sense of connection to”. She elaborated that as a Vietnamese art student in Hong Kong, she was inspired by Chung’s contributions to the contemporary art scene in Vietnam.

Ngan Wing Gi, an exhibition helper, said that she learned of the event through the West Kowloon Cultural District’s website and online newsletter. She worked on improving information regarding M+’s current exhibition about Isamu Noguchi and Dahn Vo because neither of the artists’ pages had contained any information about the event.

Participants were taught how to edit content in a 30 minute tutorial at the beginning of the session.

According to Ersoy, if editors did not have a pre-decided artist in mind, they could pick a name at random from the list of suggested artists. The list included 15 artists with insufficient information on their existing pages as well as 15 artists who did not have a page at all. One editor in particular noted how she did not have an artist in mind but was able to discover the work of Japanese painter Maria Taniguchi.

The event, that lasted from 2 pm to around 6:30 pm the past Saturday, was the third of its kind. Some of the attending editors on Saturday had either heard of or attended these previous events. The editors added to and created about 20 Wikipedia pages during the event, but will have the opportunity to continue editing online until March 14th.

Before the event began, both organizations reached out to and worked closely with Wikimedia Taiwan and WikiWomen Taiwan. Wikimedia User Group Hong Kong members, William Chan and Jesse Cancelmo were also present at the event to help with the editing and other technical issues that could come up. According to Cancelmo, a teacher at the Southern University of Science and Technology who also works as a “Wikimedian”, the Wikimedia Foundation places a lot of emphasis on copyright. Sometimes editors who copy too closely from articles can have all their content deleted due to the copyright regulations that Wikipedia operates under. This includes citing sources for all the information added.

Some individuals chose artists that inspired them. Hong Kong born artist Jes Fan was one of the non-binary artists whose pages were added to. Editors noted that, in most instances, the artists had information about them on the internet but that it was not available on Wikipedia. It was just a matter of collecting and inputting the data. The AAA library, located on the floor above, had extensive catalogs and books that were consulted by the editors as well.

At the end of the event, editors discussed which artists they worked on. The list included Shirley Tse, Jo Turr and Ganjun Gupta to name a few.

At the end of the event, editors were able to share their experiences with the group. Day spoke about how she worked on Istanbul based artist Burcak Bingol. Bingol, who has been featured in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is working on the Lady Dior Art Project, is an accomplished artist who surprisingly did not have a Wikipedia page before this. Some other editors also voiced their surprise when they discovered that artists that were house-hold names for them, did not have Wikipedia pages.

According to Day, “Events like this are important to feminism in the long-run because you can’t have gender equity and inclusion without representation and visibility. Wikipedia is one of the most visited websites in the world, with over 15 billion page views a month. If you consider the power of a platform of that reach, where certain (male) stories dominate and other (female) stories never see the light of day, you can see how impactful an event to correct imbalances in gender representation can be”.

M+ and AAA can be contacted at the following:
M+- @mplusmuseum (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook)

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