This post was written by Richard Scriven, a geography researcher who attended the event below, and is re-used with kind permission. It was first published here.
A recent Wiki workshop for geographers organised by Wikimedia UK and the RGS-IBG, demonstrated the positive role that people can play in both disseminating knowledge and contributing to the online resources. The workshop outlined the ideas central to Wikipedia, the operating principles and ways of creating and editing content. Beyond the particulars, I took three main points away from the day, which I think worth sharing.
1. Wikipedia is an important tool. It is much maligned in the academy, but this approach puts the emphasis on the wrong aspect: the tool is not the issue, how you use it is. It should be appreciated for what it can do and not dismissed for what it can’t. Wikipedia is a gateway or a starting point for general information, summaries and signposting. If someone misuses it in an academic context, this is not Wikipedia’s fault, it is more likely a case of poor online literacy and/or bad judgement. The session helped me form a renewed appreciation for Wikipedia.
2. We have a role and even a duty to participate. We all have knowledge, skills and access that are not available to the others and these can be used to benefit discussions, debates and understandings. This is especially true for those in university settings. My own interest saw me gravitating towards areas such as social and cultural geography or research methods where I found articles I could contribute to. Anyone with an area of expertise can contribute to these sections. The content is decided by those who write it, but in the case of Wikipedia that editor/author can, and should be, you.
3. It is easy. The editing and creating of content is very accessible. With a little knowledge, you can do a lot. The singular common observation from the workshop participants was the ease with which we could use the site. There are also numerous supports available through Wikipedia from simple guides to opportunities to seek assistance, such as The Teahouse, ‘a friendly space where new editors can ask questions about contributing to Wikipedia and get help from peers and experienced editors’. Just get started, dip your toe into the Wikipedian waters and contribute.