Communications/Resource center/Storytelling and messaging/Effectively communicating abstract topics to the public

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Want to help translate? Translate the missing messages.
Communications Resource Center

Sharing knowledge on Wikimedia communications — Please add!

How do I effectively communicate abstract topics to the public, like "free knowledge"?[edit]

problem

We envision a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge. This is what we want. The Wikimedia mission is an educational one: to empower and engage people to create and disseminate knowledge freely. This is what we do in order to help make our vision reality. Hence the term free knowledge, which is basically a tool to our mission. By definition it is abstract, indeed: By advocating free knowledge we suggest that knowledge is not yet free (enough). But how many people do you know who would consider their knowledge "unfree"? How many people would even think of asking themselves this kind of question? Probably not many, since in order to understand what free knowledge is, one must understand its opposite, ...just like you can only understand the concept of health if you understand what being not healthy means. It's complimentary. One doesn't come without the other.

Now, every time we advocate our concept of free knowledge we require our target audience to share our premise that knowledge can be unfree. But in fact, we don't. Instead, we explain things like copyright and copyleft or the history of the public domain, which in turn are just as abstract as free knowledge. It's tricky! Abstract things are not intuitive. Usually people resort to concrete examples in order to explain them. Luckily, Wikipedia is just the perfect concrete example:

solution

While people may not be aware of the unfree aspects of knowledge, they a.) know Wikipedia, b.) like Wikipedia. Unsurprisingly, Wikipedia is a great common starting point for explaining the principles of free knowledge. Try to connect the workings of Wikipedia with everyday experiences of your target group. What are they interested in? What troubles them? Wikimedia's 5 public policies on access, censorship, copyright, intermediary liability, and privacy are great resources you can use. Check out the explanation on how public policy supports Wikipedia. This is your connection to the project that everybody knows and likes. Then Check out the 5 policies themselves and pick from the various statements regarding censorship, surveillance, (non-)access, copyright issues etc. These are your connections to concerns of the general public. This way, instead of explaining free knowledge on a meta level you can draft a story that begins with Wikipedia and shows the role it plays in the evolving digital era with all its issues. In short:

  1. explain the abstract with concrete examples: Wikipedia is the most successful example of free knowledge. Openness, collaboration, sharing, neutrality etc. as strengths without which WP wouldn't be possible.
  2. use our public policy as source for argumentation: People are concerned about who controls what information in the digital age. Our necessary and strong stands on e. g. privacy and censorship demonstrate how Wikipedia as a topic is tightly interwoven with broad issues of our time.
  3. "4 templates": You can move from the Wikimedia vision to our mission, to Wikipedia as the single most successful example of free knowledge, to its societal impact outlined in the public policy (external website, for Meta version see Public policy).