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Event name: Conference Panel on "Circulation of Free Culture in the Digital Francophone Sphere: Diversity or Occidentalocentrism?"

Description of your participation

This panel was part of a larger event organized by the World Social Science Forum in Montreal. It brought together practioners, activists and scholars to question the conditions of creation of "free content" (from who?) and the conditions of its dissemination (to who?) in the francophone world. Overall, the presentations were very rich and allowed to address some of reasons for the under-representation of non-western knowledge in Wikimedia projects. It appeared that one source of the under-representation of non-western knowledge in the encyclopedia derives from another problem in academia: the difficulty of non-western researchers and writers to publish in "quality sources". If they don't have access to publication in the main peer-reviewed, legitimized quality journals, newspapers and platforms, then a ripple effect is that references in Wikipedia will most likely reproduce this discrepancy and cite mostly western texts. As a consequence, the citation practices in Wikipedia tend to reproduce the inequalities of the academic publishing world, which are themselves a consequence of economical, social and education inequalities. By contributing to encourage educational and academic publication projects in the non-Western world, the Wikimedia Foundation could help to improve the representation of non-Western quality sources in its own projects.

Contacts and interaction

Three wikimedians attended the event: Seeris (panel facilitator), Simon Villeneuve (panelist) and Benoit Rochon (audience). We interacted with all the panelists and some members of the audience, including:
  • Marin Dacos, a key figure of open knowledge in France attended the panel and entered the conversation during the debate. He is the founder of the some of the most popular and well respected open access platforms in France: Revues​.org, Calenda, Ope­nE­di­tion et Ope­nE­di­tion Books.
  • Florence Piron: Prof. Piron teaches at Université de Laval. This event was the occasion for wikimedian Benoit Rochon to meet her, and discuss his possible intervention at an event on open science. He participated to this event in November 2013 (see: Florence Piron is also in contact with Seeris regarding an educational project in Haiti.
  • Dieyi Diouf: Prof. Diouf teaches at Dakar University and travelled from Senegal especially for this panel. She is the head of the university's library.
  • Émilie Tremblay and Jean-Marie Tremblay are the founders of the open library "Les classiques des sciences sociales" (Social Sciences Classics). The panel was an occasion to strengthen the relationship with this organization. In the last years, tensions had emerged when some wikimedians uploaded in Wikisource some of the texts digitized by Les Classiques. Marin Dacos shared an interesting point of this topic: he differentiated the "open knowledge" philosophy of Les Classiques from the "free knowledge" philosophy of Wikimedia projects.


What lessons were learned that could help others in similar events?

The panel took place on October 13th, 2013, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, right in the middle of the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. Definitely not winner in terms of audience participation! We didn't choose this date, it was assigned to us by the World Social Science Forum organizers. We can assume that participation would have been better if our panel had been scheduled on the last day of the Forum, Tuesday 15th. As a consequence, the general outreach wasn't great, with few people in the audience. Peeking inside other panels room next door, we realized that others had the same (or smaller) audience size. We wanted to take advantage of the international scope of the WSSF that brought numerous academics and professionals in Montreal to propose a time for collective reflection. The fact that the event took place during the WSSF had some good and some bad consequences: the good one was that it helped Dieyi Diouf to obtain a travel grant from the Francophone University Agency (AUF) to travel to Canada; the bad one is that we could not choose the date of our panel and had to accept that fees applied to panelists and the audience. If I had to do it again, I would plan a whole afternoon of discussion "off" from the WSSF, trying to engage with the scholars and professionals coming for the Forum but outside of its organizational framework, which would allow more freedom and possibilities to open up to the general audience (but then Dieyi Diouf would probably not have been able to come).

Nonetheless, the event was very convivial and productive. We had arranged to all meet up for a brunch just before the event, to get to know each other and have more time to interact before the panel. A group of 10 North Americans, Africans and European meeting in an Asian restaurant was a great sign of the kind of Western/Non-Western dialogue we wanted to achieve! We exchanged badges and stickers from different projects represented around the table. This meal before the public presentation helped releasing some stress and allowed to tie deeper relations between participants. I would definitely use this formula again.

What impact did your participation have on the Wikimedia Mission goals of Increased Reach, Increased Quality, Increased Credibility, Increased and Diversified Participation?

General Outreach"

See above (lessons learned).

Academic Outreach

Increased Quality

Seeris used the information debated during the panel to improve the following articles in
  • w:fr:Savoir libre (Free Knowledge): restructuring and improvement of introduction + sections added under the name "The Access to Knowledge Movement (A2K)" and "Challenges in the Western and non-Western world" (+4738)
  • w:fr:Accès libre (Free Acces): first entry in the section "Open access in Quebec" (+548)‎
  • w:fr:Libre accès (édition scientifique) (Open Access): reference added

Detail of expenditures:

Category Item description Unit Total cost Currency Notes
Registration Registration fees for Oumar Kane 1 $425 USD Scholar rate for Delegates from OECD* member countries - regular rate
Registration Registration fees for Dieyi Diouf 1 $250 USD Scholar rate for Delegates from non-OECD* member countries - regular rate
Registration Registration fees for Seeris 1 $105 USD Student rate for Delegates from non-OECD member countries - early bird rate
Registration Registration fees for Émilie Tremblay 1 $105 USD Student rate for Delegates from non-OECD member countries - early bird rate

* OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Amount underspent/left-over (please specify currency): none