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.