Losing Adrianne Wadewitz

I woke up this morning to an incredibly shocking email in my mailbox. I got an automatic update from HASTAC announcing the publication of this blog post: http://www.hastac.org/blogs/cathy-davidson/2014/04/10/remembering-adrianne-wadewitz-scholar-communicator-teacher-leader . My co-author, wiki-friend, and mentor in thinking about Wikipedia in the Digital humanities was gone, having fallen in one of her favorite pass-times.

All day I have been shaking from the loss. It’s not that I knew her particularly well personally: we had mostly interacted through digital media and have only met in person at several Wikimedia related events. It’s that I know that the common mission we shared bridging Wikipedia and Digital Humanities community has gotten unimaginably harder. Her contribution was tireless and compelling and finding anyone to fill her shoes will be nigh impossible. This loss seems keen for me: as an aspiring communicator of that space, Adrianne was an incredible mentor and model. She had incredible energy and voice, travelling across the United States and the World to spread that vision. She actively delivered incisive critiques of Wikipedia, the general response of scholars in shaping that space, and the need to place Women, the humanities and the underprivileged into our public knowledge record.

Just a month ago, Adrianne and I were fighting through our rejection of a paper from an Academic journal on the place of history and historical process in Wikipedia. Today I control her intellectual property in that article, as we had yet to find another platform for publishing it. Moreover, we had talked about something beyond our research in that first article: beginning to really understand, through large scale analysis, how women and humanities are problematically represented in Wikipedia. Without her voice helping me hone and shape those ideas, and without her experience helping assuage the fears I have entering the larger academic community, I am feeling blinded. I need help, and gladly welcome collaboration to meet her goals. Hopefully, we can use this tragedy to find a way to dedicate more research to her vision.

My losses seem rather small when compared to the impact that she clearly had on her family, friends, students and colleagues near her. But I can’t help but think how many internet users, scholars and learners the world over will never understand what they lost with her passing.

Why do we care about the Novel but not the Novelist? An observation about authorship and public Googling and use of Wikipedia

Sorry it has been a while since I posted a blog, between grad-school, PhD applications, health, teaching, and a masters project, life has been a bit overwhelming. I have a report coming soon reflecting on the Blake Archive internship last fall, and parts of that should be going up here on the blog in the next month or so. However that is not why I am writing; instead, I wanted to publish some interesting observations I had about the public’s idea of authors and writers when glancing through traffic on Wikipedia articles.

It all started with a Wikipedia contribution. I have recently been working on the article for “Novelist” on English Wikipedia as part of the Wikipedia Core Contest, which is a competition for experienced Wikipedians to write articles about core subjects to public knowledge. Since 2004 the page has been a redirect funneling viewers to the article “Novel”, which linked to a vast network of nearly 12000 pages on Wikipedia related to novels and fiction writing. The novelist redirect was frequently used, with something like 3000-4000 links on Wikipedia articles, so I decided to create an actual article about novelists. In doing so, I ended up hijacking those internal links to the novel page (“novel” now has about 8695 links and “novelist” 4850, a number much larger than the original links because of work I have been doing to integrate the novelist article into the encyclopedia). However, I noticed the novelist article is not getting the same amount pure traffic as would be proportional to the number of links I grabbed from the “novel” page: the novel page gets well over 1200 views on most days while, though the traffic has more than doubled to the novelist page since the time it was a redirect it was getting only around 100 views a day, it is still only getting about 250 views on most days. This led me to an interesting question: are people really more interested in the form, than the process of novel-writing or the origin of the work? And in a much broader question: what is the place of authors within our culture of readers? Do the readers care about the author or what type of author wrote a work? How does the profession of novelist shape up against other types of writing professions?

Google trends writers

Authorship tends to be a major topic in academia, and being in an English department, I have always thought of the creative writers by their genre and by their relative relationship to the workshops they do. But a little bit of looking through Google trends, shows that the public really isn’t asking about authors’ genres. When comparing the search term “novelist” with the professions of “author”, “writer”, “poet” and “playwright” on Google trends, I found that relative Google interest about novelist hits the bottom of the barrel along with playwright while the concepts of author and writer lead the numbers. However, one part of the graph stood out: the trends for “poet” have nearly a third of the popularity of the writer category, blowing both novelist and playwright out of the water. This is probably skewed a bit, because “novelist” doesn’t have its own topical search, but it strikes me as interesting that the concept of poet stands out well above the rest. These trends hold out on Wikipedia page-views as well, at time of writing author trumps writer with 17635 “author” views in the last 30 days compared to 14533 “writer”‘ views. Moreover, “poet” still has 10503 views, while novelist has 5565 (including the spikes around my contributions and it’s debut on the front page through DYK), though playwright still does fairly well with 12636 views . Even though Wikipedia’s inter-connectivity seems to level the playing a field a bit, the concept of poet alongside writer and author still trend fairly high. So novelist as a profession seem to be of far less importance within this public conversation.

This leaves me with a few questions: culturally do we perceive poets as different the other types of generic writers? Why are we thinking about writers and authors in more general categories when we train writers in the academy within genre based practices?

However, I also noticed that the mediums in which the authors are writing seem to create way more interest, with pages on Wikipedia like Novel getting 46452 views or Poetry getting 64550 view in the last thirty days. The concepts of the work is clearly overshadowing the authorship, leading to another set of questions: Why does the concept describing the product of these authors take privilege over their idea behind the author’s profession? Is it that we don’t actually attribute the work to an authorship process? Has Barthes’s “Death of the Author” permeated our sense of authorship so much, that we don’t ask as many questions on the internet about the writerly practice behind it? Is writing simply something that permeates our experiences of the world so thoroughly that the works are all we see rather the people behind it?

Anyway my post is more questions than actual concrete conclusions, but I think this is an interesting reflection on the impact of product-centered perspectives of consumers in the literary market place: they aren’t asking question about the labor that goes into it. That might be a problem, especially when writers struggle with getting published, and in doing so making a living. Its an interesting dilemma. Of course, in the meantime, we can always improve the public information about those professions: both the poet article and the novelist article on Wikipedia could use your help!

Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back again soon!

Long Several Weeks and an Editathon

What a long several weeks! It’s been a while since my last post, and the last couple weeks have been a good case study of grad school chaos: I was catching up with school activities outside my internship with the Blake Archive, creating a syllabus for a competitive graduate teaching opportunity for next semester, grading a pile of papers for the writing classes I am teaching this semester,  running an Editathon (for more information see the event page on Wikipedia) and preparing to help a professor using Wikipedia in his classroom.  Oh, the life of academics! A lot happened in the past several weeks, and I don’t think I can adequately cover all of it. Instead, I thought I would spend today’s post highlighting what Editathons are, reporting on the editathon that I held here at K-State and discussing opportunities offer both for GLAM-Wiki activities and for collaboration among non-Wikimedia communities.

What is an editathon?

One of the biggest parts of successful GLAM-Wiki Activities tends to be live in-person events that encourage people to contribute to Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects called Editathons. Generally, at these events, a group of Wikipedians alongside some inexperienced volunteers come together to contribute to materials relavent to GLAMs on the various projects. I first experienced events like these in the U.K. when I lived there in 2011, and, subsequently in the D.C. area, I participated in several more events, as the local community got its foot in the door with the vast number of GLAMs in the city, especially the Smithsonian. Generally, these editathons allow organizations to access the Wikimedia volunteer community in a more personal and interactive setting, something that they are more familiar with as curators of institutions distributing public knowledge. Moreover, the GLAM institution that host the editathon gets an opportunity to promote both their materials, by asking Wikimedians to edit articles about them, and reward the volunteers through food and exposure to the collection and its behind the scenes workinga. In 2011, the Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on an editathon I attended at the Smithsonian’s Archive of American Art, and the video really captured the enthusiasm held by the, then, Wikipedian-in-Residence, Sarah Stierch, Sarah Snyder, a big advocate for the D.C. area Wikimedia community, volunteer participants, and a younger version of myself. I like that the video captures both the energy and the focus of GLAM institutions when they hold these events. For information and materials to help run editathons check out the tutorials at editathon.org and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:How_to_run_an_edit-a-thon

Editathon at the Beach Museum

On October 11th, the Beach hosted an editathon related to William Blake. It provided an interesting experience for me, because it offered both a different approach to edithatons and created a radically new experience for the Beach Museum. One of the biggest hurdles for me this semester is corralling volunteers to contribute to the Blake Activities. Online volunteers aren’t too hard to find: on English Wikipedia, there are few Blake related contributors that have been producing a fair amount of Blake content. However, throughout Eastern Kansas their are hardly any regular Wikimedia projects contributors: maybe 6 including myself. Also, the Beach museum wanted to hold the event on a Friday because of staffing and the weekly schedule. Many of the Wikimedians couldn’t attend because of the work week. Thus for the editathon, I ended up having drew on people from my network in the English department instead of the typical volunteer community these events: experienced Wikipedians.

The event turned out smaller then expected (8 attendees instead of an expected 12 or so); as is often the case with academic communities, many people constantly have many things they are doing and a number of RSVPs had other things come up. However, for an event that didn’t draw many experienced Wikipedians, we got a fair amount done. Beyond teaching 5 new editors how to edit Wikipedia and Wikisource, the volunteers got a chance to learn more about Blake’s works and contributed to both Wikipedia and the Wikisource. Wikisource is a sister project to Wikipedia which creates e-book transcriptions of public domain books. We made some good progress on transcribing Benjamin Heath Malkin’s A Father’s memoirs of his child (we could still use more help at https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Index:Father%27s_memoirs_of_his_child.djvu ). Though not radically productive for a 4 hour period, the event proved a success within the limits on the situation: training people to make contributions on Wikimedia projects can take time, and to get 5 people actually making changes within characterizes a big success; and, this is the first volunteer event at the Beach Museum, besides the use of docents, that actively involved people creating information related to the mission. Since, I haven’t seen any activity on Wikimedia projects from the volunteer, it demonstrates that academics only have so much time to contribute and then may or may not come back as regular contributors. Generally, though the event provided a foundational experience for the community here, the Beach museum and create a model for future events!

Thinking about the event as Cross Organizational Collaboration

With my internship I also want to facilitate conversation and collaboration amongst different academic groups that exist on the K-State campus to create public knowledge.The edithaton offered just that opportunity: we improved Blake related materials to meet the goals of the Blake Archive, while giving the Beach Museum a sample of what it means to host volunteers and see what running such an event would look like. Beside direct outcomes, it allowed for a meeting between Dr. Mark Crosby, my sponsor at the Blake Archive, and Addrianne Russell, our sponsor from the Beach. Dr. Crosby teaches a digital humanities class in the Spring. In the class, Crosby will require his students to contribute to a similar event focused largely on the interests of the Beach. Moreover, by training digital humanities students in Wikipedia ahead of time, the event will be more focused on contributions and collaboration!

Whats coming up

As, I have been promising for a while, there are some more statistical sets that I would like to explore as an extension of my earlier discussion of stats. Furthermore, I just got a copy of William Blake and the Digital Humanities: Collaboration, Participation, and Social Media by Roger Whitson and Jason Whittaker from Inter-Library Loan. Both Mark Crosby, and myself are planning to review the book, and I would love to reflect on it here in light of my project.  Hopefully I can those blog posts out with a more timely manner this time!

Reporting Metrics on GLAM-Wiki Part 1

As I mentioned in a post earlier in the week, documenting and assessing the effects of a GLAM-Wiki partnership on a institutions digital presence is a critical step to GLAM-Wiki cooperations. There are a number of ways to take metrics related to Wikipedia. In this blog I am going to highlight a few and why they matter. If you would like to see a comprehensive list of tools that GLAM professionals can use to measure content on Wikipedia, check out this list of tools used by the GLAM-Wiki community.

Metrics are an important part of any project, because it allows whoever is coordinating that project to communicate to others exactly what happened. This is particularly important when working with academic or cultural institutions: their is always to much work in that space and not enough labor. Metrics allow academics and GLAM-participants to assess the ratio of effort to public impact. For this blog post, I will cover some of the most basic types of metrics used by GLAM-Wiki assessment: quality and number of articles and external links.

Blake task force and Article quality

One of the most common ways for Wikipedians to organize work and content is to create community projects where they can coordinate efforts. Projects for large swaths of material are called WikiProjects and for more specific subtopics, sometimes these WikiProjects will form task forces (check out this link for a list of WikiProjects on English Wikipedia). For this GLAM-Wiki cooperation, I created a William Blake Task force as part of WikiProject Poetry on English Wikipedia. One of the advantages of WikiProjects is that they allow users to know who is working on a content area and for participants to categorize. On Wikipedia, the community has developed an assessment system called the 1.0 assessment scheme to map out the importance and quality of articles on English Wikipedia.

When I first found out I would be doing an internship with the archive (as reported in an earlier post), I began tagging articles related to Blake within this schema. In doing so, I identified 150 pages related to Blake and his work (now 151 page because of the a new article). I assessed them according to the 1.0 criteria.  As you can see in the screenshot of the assessment graph below, many of these articles are lower in quality (starts and stubs are small starter articles on Wikipedia with little content or references while Featured articles are well referenced and thorough articles that undergo a review process) and many of the most importance articles related to Blake and his art (Blake’s biography and his main publications) could use focused improvement. By identifying these qualities, we can direct contributors that we enlist through the Education assignments, editathons and Wikipedia community content drives towards the articles that need the most work and are most important.  At the end of the internship, I will reassess how successful these activities are by documenting the changes in article quality and number.

URLs to the Institution

One of the easiest ways for an institution to report it’s reach and presence on Wikipedia, as well as the internet more generally, is to determine how many urls lead towards different parts of their website. For English Wikipedia, a contributor who works for the Library of Congress, Ed Summers, created a tool called LinkyPedia which maps out how often links get used on English Wikipedia. According to the tool, currently, the Blake Archive has 110 links to its pages across 56 Wikipedia pages (not all of them articles). This is a small number of URLs considering how important the Blake Archive is as the primary Academic source of Blake images and transcription on the web. Anyone who researches a Blake poem or publication will likely find their way to the English Wikipedia article on the topic, and, if links to the authoritative Archive records are not available, they may not realize that the archive exists or can provide them support. This is a problem for students, researchers and Blake scholarship more generally: the free authoritative materials from the Blake Archive can easily be ignored for someone unfamiliar with the project. Adding links that meaningfully help readers connect to this outside source, as long as its not simply link spam, fulfills both Wikipedia’s mission of helping individuals access free knowledge and the Blake Archive’s mission in increasing use of their reference resources produced through almost two decades of institutional funding and grants.

Links on other Wikimedia projects are also important. For the Blake Archive, the most important links will be from Wikimedia Commons. Because the high resolution scans from the Blake Archive have been available for free on the internet since 1996, Wikimedia contributors have been downloading the images and uploading them to Wikimedia Commons because of their public domain status. Many of these images have been accompanied with a URL that provides the source of these images, properly accrediting the Archive for making them available. Though the MediaWiki software allows searching for the use of URLs, the report it generates doesn’t account for multiple URLs on a page thus allowing you to count the number of pages. To create a data similar to Linkypedia’s I ran two different tools to create metrics for links on Wikimedia Commons: first, running the built in tool, I discovered that their are 710 links to the Blake Archive; next, using the tool AutoWikiBrowser, I ran another report which reported 644 distinct file pages using those urls. On Wikimedia Commons, their are 2287 images related to William Blake, thus the report suggests that the Blake Archive is the source of over 1/4 of Blake images already in use across Wikimedia Projects. Already, in my initial survey of those images, I have discovered other Blake Archive scans without proper metadata attributing their source; this suggests that a significantly larger portion of those images are from the Blake Archive.

These metrics about link data have allowed me prioritize a particular activity that should improve my internship’s public impact: adding appropriate links and metadata to English Wikipedia and Commons. By adding links to the William Blake Archive and the institutional webpages of those institutions that hold the physical Blake objects, images will be accredited to their producers and readers will be affiliated with direct channels to free academic sources.

Coming soon

In my next blog post (or two), I will talk about the tools available for tracking page views, use of images on the family of Wikimedia projects, and how the Archive’s website metrics can be compared to Wikimedia projects to help improve public access to the materials.

Meanwhile, I would like to encourage everyone interested in William Blake or GLAM-Wiki to help improve content related to Blake on English Wikipedia. For things to do, check out the list of potential projects at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Blake#To_do . If you need help learning how to edit, check out http://editathon.org/ .

Semester starts, and collaboration expands!

William Blake in Conversation with the Astrologer John Varley - the Right - by John Linnell (cropped, contrast increased) from Wikimedia Commons http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:William_Blake_in_Conversation_with_the_Astrologer_John_Varley_-_the_Right_-_by_John_Linnell.jpg

William Blake in Conversation with the Astrologer John Varley – the Right – by John Linnell (cropped, contrast increased) from Wikimedia Commons 

Today is officially the first day of the semester, and already good news for my internship and the Blake Archive collaboration! I was very pleased this weekend to get a message from User:Dmitrismirnov, a Wikipedian mostly active on Russian Wikipedia, saying that he had created a new English-language article on William Blake’s series of pencil and black chalk sketches called “Visionary Heads“. The series of sketches were inspired by late night meeting John Varley, an astrologer, during the later part of Blake’s life. The sketches depict visions of historical figures whom appeared to Blake in visions, as if sitting for a portrait. You should check out the article, or even contribute more information to it! The article is by no means complete, but that’s part of what makes Wikipedia so empowering: at least the information is out there for those who didn’t know about the sketches and we can know expand and improve that content as opportunity becomes available. If you know something about the Visionary Heads, or would like to learn more by researching them, why not edit the page! It’s fairly easy to contribute, simply create an editing account and begin writing. If you find yourself with questions or concerns, we also have community spaces, like our Teahouse, which can help new editors figure out how to use the site.

Speaking of the synergistic effects of social media: my blog has brought me in contact with a librarian of the National Library of Medicine, who has worked with Blake’s scientific illustrations of which the library holds a copy! Hopefully we can find some form of collaboration to improve the public awareness of these materials through Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons and other platforms! I am very excited to learn more about their collection and works as we follow up on that conversation.

Both of these experiences, just in the last couple days, demonstrate just how empowering Wikipedia and GLAM Cooperations can be for bringing together people of varied interests to work on knowledge that they are passionate about. Wikipedia’s global reach, from Kansas to regions speaking Russian, and ability to bring public relevance to institutions, like the Blake Archive, Kansas State’s Beach Museum and the National Library of Medicine, ensures a digital gathering place for physically distanced individuals.

Since I am in the middle of preparing for the writing classes I teach as part of my graduate study, I will keep this blog post short! But what an exciting day: already my activities are paying off! Would you like to be part of that impact? How can I help? What do you need to know to better expand public knowledge about Blake or another subject?