Class Notes 9/23/2019

Today’s class started with L.A. in the news, with Alex presenting on the expelling of two Cuban diplomats to the U.N. by the United States. Cuba was being accused by the U.S. of using “sonic weapons” to sabotage and attack the U.S. embassy. Cuba’s foreign minister rejected these claims, and some suspect it to have been merely pesticides. From the sources Alex used, they seemed to be neutral, except Fox News in particular had a more anti-Cuban rhetoric.

Next, Professor Holt went into detail about the logistics of the full Wikipedia assignment. She went over what needs to be done on Wikipedia to fulfill the assignment. We then started to discuss the Sadie Bergen article we were assigned to read and talked about systematic bias. Particularly we explored as a class the question of what kind of people edit Wikipedia, and why they do it. We determined that it’s typically people who are invested in the topic and people who have enough leisure time to do so. The Bergen article also talked about how most of the Wikipedia editors are educated white men, and the editors are from majority Christian countries. They are also heavily dependent on secondary and tertiary sources as opposed to primary sources, and in theory the writers and editors attempt to remain neutral in their bias.

We then split into smaller groups to discuss the articles that we each individually chose. Some criticisms and patterns that the class noticed about the Wikipedia articles were things like bias, lack of information, lack of focus, and questionable sources. For instance, a few people picked articles having to do with Cuba and they all seemed like they focused too much on Fidel Castro. Pages for figures like Frank Pais or Celia Sanchez were reported to have had way too much information about their relation to Castro and at times even going on tangents about Castro, when at that point the editors should have just gone to Castro’s own page. A few pages as well seemed to have a pattern of a lack of focus or have a ton of content for something or someone in the past and have almost no content for very recent events.

We ended class with coming back from our discussion and Professor Holt leaving us with a few tasks. First is to complete more of the online Wikipedia training. Next, she instructed us to start officially assigning ourselves articles to edit. Professor Holt then ended with talking about some of the resources provided to us by the Wooster Library page and how to access online sources and archives.

 

Terms:

Systematic bias: A bias developed based on the experiences or demographics of the writers or editors.

The “average Wikipedian:” The most common demographics of “Wikipedians” are white, educated, Christian males that live in developed countries.

Neutral bias: A bias that presents all sides to an issue or topic fairly and factually while not leaning to one side or the other.

 

Links:

Quick reference guide for COW Libraries: http://libguides.wooster.edu/quickref

Information page on systematic bias in Wikipedia articles: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Systemic_bias

Information page on WikiProjects on Wikipedia and their purpose: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject

 

Questions:

Who can edit Wikipedia? What kind of people are typical Wikipedia editors? Why must we keep this in mind?

How can we work towards removing systematic bias in Wikipedia articles and get closer to neutral biases within articles?

What kind of sources are ideal for Wikipedia pages, and for what reasons? What sources are bad for Wikipedia pages, and for what reasons?

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