New Media Academy – a foray into Polish cultural institutions and Wikimedia projects

Photo shows people seated at an event while Daria speaks about Wikipedia
Daria presenting at the event

This post was written by Daria Cybulska, Wikimedia UK’s Programme Manager

Earlier this year I was invited to participate in a “New Media Academy” initiative run by a City Culture Institute in Gdańsk, Poland. The Academy is an ambitious two year programme with regular events which started in May 2014, aiming to raise awareness and skills of culture sector professionals in Poland around online education and engagement.

It focuses on new media and showing the audience how they can use it creatively in their work – topics planned include using blogs, storytelling, issues around public domain and copyright considerations, and of course Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia projects. The initiative is based on some projects already delivered by Medialab Gdańsk.

It’s the Wikipedia cooperation that I focused on in my afternoon workshop that took place on 29 May. The aim was to talk the group through possible models of cooperation with the Wikimedia movement, building up to the idea of hosting a Wikimedian in Residence. Being informed that the audience will be new to the topics, I had a somewhat tall order of explaining the idea behind openness, free licences, Wikipedia, GLAMwiki movement, and the residents.

The group was open to learning about these areas, with some real revelations along the way (“I can use the CC licensed images for free?”, “Wikipedia’s mission is similar to many cultural institutions’ aims!”, “I can see a whole history of contribution to an article?”). We worked through breaking down some of the resistance to Wikipedia (e.g. uncertainty about how incorrect content is dealt with), and looked at the positive aspiration of the project of making the sum of human knowledge available to all. During the brainstorm elements, the group was taken by the possibilities of various types of content being released and made available for use on Wikipedia. We have, however, felt that copyright considerations may be a big stumbling block in these ideas, which is why the copyright introduction session planned for 18 June was seen as a key one to attend.

One take away for me was that although many of the participants came from enthusiastic institutions who want to engage with their visitors, a focus on public engagement is yet to become an established trend in Polish cultural organisations. In many countries presenting Wikipedia as a way to reach out to wider audiences is received as a very powerful argument, and I feel in Poland institutions will progress towards such an approach.

You can see the presentation I used (with notes), together with the photos taken, here

Any cultural institutions in Poland interested to get involved with the Academy could find out more by visiting their website. The first port of contact to working with Wikimedia projects in the area would be the Wikimedia Polska organisation.