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Case study: Whose Knowledge?

How did the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign make more women visible online? Read this article to find out.
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In this step, you can read a case study provided to us by the Whose Knowledge? organisation with permission for us to reproduce it verbatim here. Whose Knowledge? is a global campaign to centre the knowledge of marginalised/Global Majority communities on the internet.

This article focuses on the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign to make women’s contributions to the world more visible online. You can find out more about the current status of the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign on the Whose Knowledge? website. This case study relates to Article 27.1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Right: ”Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits.” It also relates to the following Feminist Principles of the Internet:

  • Amplify – ”The internet is a transformative political space”
  • Movement building – ”We claim the power of the internet to amplify women’s narratives and lived realities”.

The Issue

Women’s knowledge and contributions to the world are invisible in many ways. When we look at women’s invisibility online, Wikipedia provides a good example that helps explain why this is such a critical issue. Less than a quarter of Wikipedia biographies represent women. Many biographies of women don’t exist or are incomplete.

More often than not, women’s biographies on Wikipedia don’t have images. Whose Knowledge? estimates that less than 20% of articles of important women have pictures. And, when women’s faces are missing from Wikipedia, that invisibility spreads. Half a billion people read Wikipedia every month [1], and it is recorded to have been the 5th most visited website in the world [2], so gaps in Wikipedia have a big impact on the broader internet.

Wikipedia is not only a perfect proxy to show the invisibility of women as a final result but it also illustrates a continuity of the exclusion of women in society as owners of their own stories. Wikipedia is primarily written by white men from Europe and North America [3] and only an estimated 1 out of every 10 Wikipedia editors self-identify as female [4].

The Solution

#VisibleWikiWomen is a yearly campaign that takes place from March to May, and focuses on gathering and sharing quality images via Wikimedia Commons, which can be used to illustrate biographies of women on Wikipedia.

Every year, Whose Knowledge? invites a broad network of women’s and feminist organizations, culture and memory institutions, Wikipedia editors, user groups, chapters, and anyone who would like to give women the visibility and acknowledgment they deserve, to join #VisibleWikiWomen. These partners and friends participate by gathering and uploading quality images in the public domain, or under free licence, to Wikimedia Commons under the VisibleWikiWomen category of the year. These images could be photographs or drawings of women, as well as images of their work, with proper consent.

The #VisibleWikiWomen campaign has a yearly thematic focus. In 2019, the focus was to give more visibility to black, brown and indigenous women from the Global South [5]. In 2020, the campaign celebrated and recognized the work of women in the critical infrastructures of care [6]. In 2021, the campaign focused on highlighting women’s feminist realities [7].

The social media strategy for the campaign focuses on putting in the spotlight the faces and achievements of women whose photos have been uploaded as part of the campaign, through Tweet threads and similar messages on other social media platforms.

To support the process of uploading images to Wikimedia Commons, Whose Knowledge? created a resources kit with all the information communities and partners need for navigating the Wikiverse [8]. These resources have been translated into Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic.

The Challenge

For the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign, the global Covid-19 crisis meant (and still means) that festivals, lectures, exhibitions, and other March activities that celebrate women couldn’t take place for most of 2020 and 2021. Wikipedia edit-a-thons and other Wikimedia gatherings were also cancelled. All these events and physical spaces usually created opportunities for Whose Knowledge?’s partners to meet, photograph and upload images of important and inspiring women to Commons and Wikipedia.

That is a reason why, in 2021, the organisation focused heavily on building capacities for more allies and friends to learn how to upload images from their archives into Wikimedia Commons. During this time, Whose Knowledge? organized two online workshops with international feminists networks, AWID and WorldPulse, with participants from around the world [9,10]. In 2021 Whose Knowledge? also supported the organisation of six national-level events that local partners ran online (four in Africa: Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania; and two in Latin America: Argentina and Uruguay). These events and partnerships raised the possibility for more images of women to be uploaded on Wikipedia. They also helped increase the number of women who were confident enough to navigate the Wikiverse and to tell each other’s stories in their own voice, showing the world images of how they saw themselves and each other.

Whose Knowledge? is proud and grateful for all that the organisation and the organisation’s partners have accomplished together. But there is still much more to be done: Wikipedia is still missing many images of influential women, especially black, brown, trans, and indigenous women.

Was there anything you found particularly inspiring about this campaign? Share your thoughts on what you feel was most successful in the comment section below. Remember to read and respond to your fellow learners wherever possible.

References

  1. Noam Cohen, 2014. New York Times article, “Wikipedia vs. the Small Screen”
  2. Amazon Alexa, 2018. The top 500 sites on the web
  3. Wikimedia Foundation Staff, 2015. Global South Update. Wikimedia Foundation Monthly Meeting, 5 February 2015
  4. Benjamin Mako Hill, Aaron Shaw, 2013. The Wikipedia Gender Gap Revisited: Characterizing Survey Response Bias with Propensity Score Estimation
  5. Whose Knowledge?, 2019. #VisibleWikiWomen 2019
  6. Whose Knowledge?, 2020. #VisibleWikiWomen 2020
  7. Whose Knowledge?, 2021. #VisibleWikiWomen 2021
  8. Whose Knowledge?, no date. #VisibleWikiWomen Campaign
  9. AWID and Whose Knowledge?, 2021. Member Workshop – #VisibleWikiWomen Workshop: Creating our own Feminist Realities
  10. Whose Knowledge?, 2021. Workshop World Pulse & Whose Knowledge?
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