Grants talk:PEG/Pgallert/Indigenous knowledge for Wikipedia workshop

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Evaluation by the GAC[edit]

GAC Members who read the grant request without comments[edit]

GAC Members who approve this grant request[edit]

GAC Members who oppose this grant request[edit]

  1. See the reasoning below. --Oop (talk) 16:29, 5 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

GAC Members who abstain from voting/comment[edit]


Additional questions from the grant requester[edit]

Hi all, I already have a few questions where I am unsure of how to incorporate things in this grant request. I might add things frequently as the discussion develops:

  1. I would like to include a phrase like 'Other expenses, when reasonable and still within the ZAR 10,000 per person limit, might be refunded.' The reason is that I might have insufficient imagination of what else could happen, and an anticipation of every eventuality would make the request too complex. I'm thinking of things like:
    • No flight on Saturday, grant one more night accommodation,
    • Visum very expensive, refund the fee,
    • Handicapped person that needs special attention,
    • Special dietary requirements that are beyond the approved maximum.
    How/where would I include such statement? --Pgallert (talk) 14:02, 24 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. How do I tackle incidental expenses for myself, like credit card fees? In our intransparent banking system they can easily add up to a few hundred US$, but they are impossible to predict at this stage. --Pgallert (talk) 18:45, 24 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Anticipated questions and their answer from the grant requester[edit]

May be the oral document a valid source?[edit]

I would say that I like a lot this idea and frequently I tried to propose something similar, but the block has been that of the oral tradition as valid source. Personally I thought that this was more a project for other sister projects (may be Wikisource) than Wikipedia. Do you think that the community will accept this kind of sources? --Ilario (talk) 21:30, 24 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

I second this question. The other thing is that actually the indigenous knowledge can be transformed into written one, by publishing it outside Wikipedia by scientists able to evaluate its validity, by cross-checking with other sources and general knowledge, just as historians/antrophologists do with source documents/human relations regarding historical events... Doing this directly in Wikipedia is the subject of no original research rule, not only verifiability rule. I could imagine support for project leading to publishing a sets of source oral stories with scientific comments on Wikisources. Maybe - we could even create a separate wiki-project for this. But again puting it directly to Wikipedia articles creates a problem with No OR and VER rules. Polimerek (talk) 22:35, 24 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Ji Ilario, hi Polimerek, these questions are valid, and have no short answer. Similar discussions have been held here and here, and some theoretical discussion can be found in my book chapter on the relationship between English Wikipedia and indigenous knowledge, and in my Wikimania 2013 talk on Indigenous knowledge for Wikipedia: Bending the rules? (video here).
In a nutshell, I claim that orally available indigenous knowledge can be:
  • verifiable: anyone can learn the language, wait for a similar occasion, travel to the community and gain their trust, and witness another narrative on the same subject. It is uncomfortable and expensive, but not impossible.
  • published: Oral cultures tell their stories in front of an audience. That is their way of publishing, which is, according to Wikipedia: "the activity of making information available to the general public" [1]
  • a secondary source: On every occasion when it is narrated, it is peer reviewed by all present fellow knowers, and in case of disagreement, corrected
Of course there are also unreliable, unpublished, or primary source narratives, just as with written content. Those will not be selected to support article facts.
I see no OR problem, selection of sources---be they written or oral---is always original research, see my current Wikimania 2014 submission. --Pgallert (talk) 09:28, 25 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Tony1 comments[edit]

Hi, thanks for this interesting application. Please interleave your responses for convenience, if you wish. First, a few procedural/structural comments, which might be useful to grantmaking staff and GAC members when we embark on the GAC revamp—which presumably will result in much better instructions for applicants:

  1. PDC link: keep the link, but it's important to spell out in the text a little more about what it is, who runs it, whether it's non-profit, rather than our having to hit the link (and then more) to learn this. I still don't know what I need to.
  2. Good "additional questions" and "anticipated questions" on this talkpage, but better integrated into your application overleaf, as plain indicative statements.
  3. Could you adjust the start-date so that this is not a retrospective application? When does what you want the funding for start? In principle I will oppose retrospective applications. It would be fine to retain the preliminary schedule, but the date for the disbursement of funds needs to be clearly in the future.
  4. I'm slightly confused about the boundary between IEG and GAC/PEG when it comes to individuals applying for project funding.

On the project itself, ... rather complicated, so forgive me for not having entirely grasped it at first look. My initial concern is the politics/policy of oral verfication on en.WP. The matter has come up several times over the years. I once suggested allowance for military history oral evidence, and was roundly spanked, with some justification I can go into. I understand the different circumstances here, but may I suggest that to gain acceptance, detailed boundaries would have to be drawn to classify the circumstances in which oral evidence is acceptable. Have there been any attempts to do so?

I'll return to read more.

Tony (talk) 09:11, 26 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Tony, thanks for your questions and comments.
  1. I can certainly include a 'background' section somewhere, please give me a day or two.
  2. My rhetoric questions can be implemented on the application page - but what do I do with the items that are really questions? I thought it would be improper to take an item on the Grants page, and outline that I have no idea how to answer or estimate it.
  3. I think the one of the specifics of this application is that the workshop will take place, no matter if there is WMF funding or not. It is just that the workshop could be a lot better with such funding. I can certainly clarify when I need the final decision, and when I need the money, will do that just now.
  4. So am I. But I found exclusion criteria for the other types: An IEG would be restricted to 4 beneficiaries, and here we have 10, and for a TPS I figured that all workshop participants would have to apply separately. I guess that this path would still be open for individual participants, should this workshop proposal be turned down?
I see that there is a need to outline why I think we need this experiment. Will be the second paragraph under 'Background', please give me till Monday.
I do have a rather elaborate idea of what the criteria for an acceptable oral citation could be, but I think it is too early to suggest them, as oral citations are currently unconditionally rejected on en-wp. In a nutshell: What would have to be captured apart from name, date, and place, is the occasion of the narrative (e.g. occasion=Nth anniversary of A, annual harvesting of B, medical emergency, triggered by question) and the role of the narrator (e.g. role=medicine man, sangoma, priest, village headman, tribal chief). Whether role and occasion fit the statement is how a reliable source could be set apart from an unreliable one. Thanks again, Pgallert (talk) 15:50, 26 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Update: I have expanded the Introductory section, outlining what PDC is, and why I think an experiment is necessary. Please let me know if I should go more into detail. --Pgallert (talk) 09:52, 27 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]


  1. Peter, thanks for your expansion of the background at the top of the application, which makes it much better. I did, however, still have to visit the en.WP article Participatory design to orient myself to what this is. The article is not in the best shape, and has two negative signs at the top. Is the lead a reasonable description of the concept/field? There are analogous articles in seven other languages, but I haven't checked them.
  2. My guess is that "Additional questions from the grant requester" could be retained on this page (but they'd have been ideal for a skype-audio discussion with Alex or Winifred or another member of staff to iron out beforehand); and that what is essentially an FAQ ("Anticipated questions and their answer from the grant requester") could be intergrated into your application text. Readers won't be used to having the case split into two locations, and while the Q/A technique might have been a good frame for your writing of parts of the case, they could now be transformed into the indicative mood overleaf.
  3. Then could you express the activity/goals in terms of current versus expected increased attendance, and what donors will get for their money if you're funded? What will be the value added (I suppose in terms of numbers and range of skills and interactivity/synergy)?
  4. Fair enough; I just wanted to raise this as a jurisdictional issue for when we discuss the revamping of the GAC process.

Your "elaborate idea" for criteria are very interesting indeed—process, participant, circumstance, as the SFL people analyse reality. Would recordings of oral evidence be uploaded to Commons? How would peer-review be replaced?

Since the politics of oral evidence still needs to be worked out at en.WP (you don't mention the state of play at other WPs), I wonder whether you might reframe the goal as one of gathering examples that can be processed "as if" they were allowed by policy on en.WP, for the explicit purpose of allowing that community to debate the issue with reference to the actual. The solution might lie in creating a system on the basis of real examples; or it might not. I'm inclined to seek opinions from en.WP experts on verifiability, if one or two can be found who can provide disinterested technical opinions on this project. Tony (talk) 12:12, 27 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Tony, and thanks again for your advice---it is sometimes hard to see one's text 'from the outside' and estimate what could be unclear there. I've done the following for now:
  • added a rough definition of 'participatory design", and a paragraph outlining what in this workshop is participatory,
  • moved over the Q/A set from here to the grants page, section Resources and Risks
  • added one Q/A pair (#1) on what I think are improvements of Achal Prabhala's previous work.
I haven't answered the general question yet, what will donors get for their money. Tomorrow, I hope... As for your other questions:
  • We will not upload anything to Commons and rather make the point that oral citations are verifiable without that upload. That's the one item that killed Achal's work, when editors questioned the impact of his CC-BY uploads on the intellectual property of the indigenous population. I'm not sure if this was a valid point because making available a representation of something (e.g. a picture of a building) does not give away the rights on the depicted item (the architecture of the building), just on this particular representation (the photo). But then I'm not a lawyer, and this obstacle can be circumvented entirely.
  • Peer review is enabled when other knowledge bearers are in the audience, as is frequently the case on official events like anniversaries. I have witnessed this only once so far: Due to mutual respect the presenter was allowed to finish his narrative, but then immediately someone else rose and started talking like "Our group remembers this event differently...", and then he offered their side of the story. This is when my museum curator analogy starts limping, but you could imagine a professor of XY being in the audience, and correcting the curator on some facts of his narrative. --Pgallert (talk) 15:28, 28 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Out for the weekend[edit]

Hi all, I'll be out for the long weekend and without Internet access. I expect to be back by Monday, 5 May. Please be patient. --Pgallert (talk) 15:05, 30 April 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Influencing Wikipedia policy[edit]

I'm familiar with the idea of participatory design (it's a crucial component in several of the disciplines that I work,) have wanted to advance oral citations related work since I literally became first aware of it, and really want to find a way around the problem of ENWP's policies effectively eliminating the possibility of incorporating indigeneous knowledges without them first being screened through the existing publishing structure which reinforces structural inequities - as a cultural geographer working with Wikipedia at UC Berkeley, these are questions that come up a hell of a lot... but as this grant is framed, the measures of success indicate that the grant cannot be considered successful without successfully changing the policies of a local project, which isn't something I think we can comfortably fund as framed. I would primarily be comfortable with the policy changes myself, although I'm still somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of verifiability being met by the possibility of replicating the context within which the original knowledge was passed - mostly because I'm generally uncomfortable with anything on a Wikimedia project being considered verifiable now when it may be impossible to verify 100 years from know, which is a risk with anything but a greater risk with unrecorded oral transmission. But mostly my objection to funding this as it stands just comes from the fact that I don't think our language communities would generally like WMF funding a grant where even before funding it we take its success at initiating local policy change on a project as one of its fundamental metrics of success. Kevin (talk) 03:33, 3 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

(Kevin I changed the topic of your section to make it more informative, feel free to revert that if you mind!)
I'd like to reinforce Kevin's observation. The way this proposal is framed success requires a policy change in a project, and I don't see how that could be an acceptable position for the grants program. Let alone that there is little evidence of current support for such change within the target community.
Having said that, it seems this grant makes sense in two ways:
  • To promote the concrete exploration of scenarios and examples of where and how oral knowledge can be organized in a wiki way, that informs and perhaps evolves the discussion on English Wikipedia.
  • To promote research projects using wikis and free licenses that record and systematize oral knowledge for use and collaboration by a larger body of researchers.
Both of those are interesting and acceptable goals for the Wikimedia movment, and in fact Wikipedia has a sister project called Wikiversity whose purposes include both things: researching new forms of wiki collaboration, and doing original research through wiki collaboration (see Wikiversity:Portal:Research).
In my view it would be more fruitful, and also more likely to get funded, to reframe your proposal for that environment, rather than Wikipedia, and leverage the result to inform and advance the discussion on English Wikipedia about the acceptance and verifiability of oral citations.
Cheers, --Solstag (talk) 02:36, 6 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
May I ask both of you to clarify: None of the current 'Project goals' and 'Measures of success' requires policy discussion or change... Did I miss something? Which part do you think should be rephrased? Thanks, --Pgallert (talk) 14:58, 6 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Our understanding from the grant request is that the goal of the project is to lay the groundwork for an informed policy discussion, not to initiate policy change. Changing policy, therefore, would not be considered a metric of success. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 20:56, 7 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
This specific measure of success is what drew my attention was this - "For each participant at least 1 article on the English Wikipedia that is updated with oral citations". Currently, oral citations of the manner described in your grant proposal arguably violate a whole bunch of Wikipedia policies - WP:V, WP:RS, etc. Arguments can be made that they don't violate those policies as well (which I am sympathetic to,) but from quite a bit of experience dealing with ENWP's community in the past, I can guarantee you that a sizable fraction of ENWP's community would consider oral citations of this nature to be in violation of currently standing policy, and even though I don't really *agree* with that interpretation of policy, I still view it as problematic to fund a project whose stated measures of success will be considered by many to require either a shift in policies on an individual project (or simply ignoring policies on an individual project.) Even minorly rephrasing it to "We'll have a sandboxed article demonstrating what could be done with oral citations for at least one article per participant" would avoid the issue and is a minor change, but individual language communities tend to get grumpy if they perceive WMF (or WMF-handed down money) as trying to meddle in policy. Kevin (talk) 01:53, 8 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Kevin, thanks for this expansion of your thought. (Solstag, is this also your main concern?) I think I understand now, and I believe your view is entirely logical and sound. I was thinking of sandboxes as well, but they have disadvantages: Workshop results would be scattered over a dozen individual user spaces, there would be no categorisation, and I had the impression that article drafts cannot remain there forever after the introduction of Speedy Deletion criterion G13 (not entirely sure if G13 could apply without any attempt to submit to AfC, though). I also discovered another small challenge: Where would I place my article list with the offers to participants? Is there a place where it could be organised like a small WikiProject, or would you think establishing a full WikiProject could be the solution? --Pgallert (talk) 08:44, 8 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Thanks, Kevin Gorman, I see your point. May I suggest the Wikipedia: namespace? Perhaps w:Wikipedia:Oral citations or w:Wikipedia:Oral citations experiment? Asaf Bartov (WMF Grants) talk 02:03, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
I'd be fine with a WP namespace experiment, or even userspace drafts. As long as they aren't submitted to AFC, they'll never be subject to G13, and could even be collated in one userspace, since CC-by-SA allows for such reuse. As an example of a userspace page that collated together articles not written by the user, my showcase of Wiki-PR's crappy spamvertising works. I really do want to fund this project, I just foresee projects having issues with us funding stuff that includes changes to project policy as a measure of success. Kevin (talk) 03:50, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
I'm not really experienced in judging what type of content may occupy the Wikipedia: name space on en-wp. That said, w:Wikipedia:Oral citations experiment (assuming it could have subpages) seems like the perfect place to me, and I take Asaf's suggestion and Kevin's approval as strong indicators that en-wp policy would allow that. I am not at all insisting on 'going live' with oral citations, but for this experiment to be successful, there would be the necessity to have the content available for an indefinite time, in wiki format, and with an intact page and talk page history during the experiment that allows the comparison of 'before' and 'after'. I'll change the project outline still tonight. I'm not in favour of user space drafts, though. I don't want to be seen as owning this experiment and its results, and I don't want to make this a private User:Pgallert thing. Thanks for your suggestions. --Pgallert (talk) 20:07, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  • As one additional comment: I really do see the lack of a recorded version of the oral telling as a serious roadblock to the longterm success of an oral citations project. I don't think that providing a recorded version was what fundamentally killed Achal's project, and as an ENWPian I think I would object to a form of oral citation that could only be verified by travelling to a particular area where I had pre-existing established relationships with the community in 2014. I think longterm verifiability should really be the goal of our projects, and that's killed by not having an extant recording. I'm more intimately familiar with oral histories in a Scandinavian (specifically Finnish) context, but I know that there at least, a 70 year gap between the original oral transmission of a history and the present oftentimes completely killed verifiability besides what was either recorded, written down, or could be verified through archaeological record. I would like for ENWP's verifiability to last longer than seventy years. Kevin (talk) 03:58, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
    • By recording you press the oral citations into a Western standard. Western scientists today distribute their knowledge in writing (They wrapped it in oral rhymes and stage plays 2000 years ago, that's how scientific dialogue can change). If you want to attack or criticise it, you have to write again, a book review, a contradicting paper. Oral cultures distribute their knowledge through narratives. You can attack and criticise it only by offering an alternative narrative at the same venue or occasion. That's how their publishing and their dialogue works.
    • For an indigenous community member it is as difficult to verify something that is referenced to a library item in the Western world, as it is for Western writers to verify oral citations. They would have to travel to a distant destination. They would have to learn how Western knowledge is organised (e.g. via a library catalogue; it took me quite a while to learn that). They would have to gain the trust of the community: Imagine an indigenous Maasai or San entering the Library of Congress and demanding a copy of a book ;) And now comes the important thing: Wikipedia is as much for indigenous Maasai and San as it is for American or European white-collar workers. English is one of their national languages, whichever country you're looking at, and oral repositories are their predominant sources of knowledge.
    • There is also a practical problem with recordings: A lot of the information is transmitted non-verbally, embedded in the context of the narrative.

      "We’d go out in the woods to get wood for the fire or to gather plants for medicine, because the old ladies always used that. We always went out as a group of women, my mother, the old lady, and me. They showed me those places where to go. They didn’t really tell me, direct me, and tell me straight out, but they always made sure that I was right there with them when they did that."---Ojibwa Thunder Woman

      ---How on Earth would this ever be recorded?
    • Narratives can and do change over time in a way that written sources cannot change (Although, libraries containing the last copy of a book could burn down. Heaven forbid.) This is an issue to which I have no good answer at the moment, I admit. --Pgallert (talk) 20:07, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Last observations[edit]

Hi Pgallert!

Yes, my strongest objection was related to those measures Kevin clarified and that are no longer a concern since you moved the goals's target outside of the main namespace of enwiki. I still think Wikiversity is an interesting venue for a project like this, mostly because I see this line of work bearing much more fruits if useful simultaneously as informative content and original research. In Wikipedia is only exposed as the former, and in a very weak position. Keep in mind that Wikipedia's mode of operation, even more than its policy, is a bad fit for your project.

I don't fully agree with what I'm about to write, but I think you should reflect on this and take it into consideration as you work:

Regardless of whatever arguments you carry into Wikipedia, this ain't about a conceptual framework of verifiability. It's about the shared directives for a distributed production operation to be self-regulating. And that's much harder to work out than conceptual policy. You may find that the environment and norms you need for collaborating on synthesizing published sources - which is the daily work of wikipedia - is not a good set of environment and norms for collaborating in publishing testimony from villages isolated from a publishing culture - which would be the "yearly work" of your proposal.

In a way, you're proposing to cook slow food within a fast food restaurant's kitchen, mostly using their utensils, during lunch time in a busy week day, without obstructing the operation of your host. Don't take me wrong if that sounds just not scalable or even destructive.

Moreover, if we are to assume you believe in the intrinsic value of the knowledge you want to document, one could even say the only reason you really want to work on Wikipedia is exposure. You want the limelight of Wikipedia, but you don't want to follow its script. After all, although valuable, why would you bother making this if nobody is going to see it?

And that brings us to a chronic problem within the movement, which in turn affects the foundation, that is to dismiss the value of better integrating the presentation of content from the sister projects within Wikipedia. People still use Wikipedia every day without ever acknowledging it has sister projects. Now tell me, how many people use google mail and don't know about google plus or google maps? Or buy Macs and don't know about iTunes or iPhones? Yeah.

We're locked in this vicious cycle where we just keep trying to feed the fat cow because it gives us much more milk, while the other ones don't yield because we leave them starving instead of properly sharing the attention we get for the behemoth. And the cult continues even after the behemoth has reached its diminishing returns limit.

So cary on your project, but have a clear mind about what it is you're actually trying to do, and what the actual landscape of realities and pathways is. It's not a good one, but can also be much wider than you might think at first, and you might need all that range to find a way for this not to end up like the previous experiments in this area.


--Solstag (talk) 02:31, 14 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Solstag, and thanks for your thought-provoking post. First, I'll be indeed cooking slow food in a fast food kitchen. But that kitchen is huge, and all I'm asking is for a bain de marie that nobody uses. I don't see much obstruction, particularly now that my dish won't even be on the menu just yet. Second, I do seek the limelight with this action, because this topic is so obscure that few even want to openly discuss it. Bear in mind, though, that I'll be making about 50 edits during that workshop, and that my other 12,500 are outside this 'rebel project', using written sources.
Regarding sister projects my philosophy differs somewhat from yours. To me, Wikipedia itself is clearly the flagship of the movement, English Wikipedia is the biggest turret on that flagship. I could spend the whole day on Wikibooks, I'm just thinking that WP is the more important and rewarding use of my time. I know nothing about Wikiversity or Wikidata (will surf it to at least get an impression), or other supporting projects, but I was always under the impression that there is an easy 'backward way' for information that already exists on WP - now your post reads as if it would deprive Wikiversity of an opportunity? Did I get that wrong, or shouldn't there be a possibility for Wikiversity to upload that data if it is valuable for them? --Pgallert (talk) 08:33, 14 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Solstag (talk · contribs), I just thought of another way to read your objection: That WMF will be throwing money at a project that could be better used elsewhere. This is of course a concern, but without much financial knowledge on my side I simply have to treat grants money as a more or less unlimited resource. Not every grantmaker has the problem that many applicants fight for the little money available. Some even face the opposite challenge, to spend what they have, on projects aligned with their mission. I would have expected that someone asks me to cut down the cost for this proposal if there were many promising applications and only little money.
The purpose of this workshop is not to create a dozen sub-standard articles in the Wikipedia name space of en. The purpose is to create a small pool of non-hypothetical oral references to enable a discussion on how reliable/verifiable/independent they are. You see, English Wikipedia uses millions of written sources, but how many oral ones? Ten? Fifty? In order to classify them, we either need more than a few, or most of them must have been included with a prior reflection of their value.
I expect the majority of oral sources to be unusable, just as the majority of print output is not a suitable reference in Wikipedia. But, having determined on a theoretical level that there are oral narratives that at the same time are verifiable, independent, objective, and even peer-reviewed, I expect a few of those narratives to withstand even a thorough source criticism.
Thanks again for your time to comment. Cheers, Pgallert (talk) 10:40, 15 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Hey Pgallert (talk · contribs), I guess your second interpretation is closer to what I was thinking. Anyway that would be my personal view, and as I said not even a view I'm fully certain of. Now about your interpretation, I think it's one thing what you're trying to do within this proposal, and another thing what you're ultimately trying to achieve, and my restaurant metaphor was related to the latter. But this is not supposed to discourage you in any way, much to the contrary. In a way I was pointing out that even if everything goes wrong and your efforts are kicked out of WP, every single bit of what you're doing would be a nice fit within WV, and could flourish there into something that, if helped by better integration with WP, could be really useful to advance the Wikimedia movement towards frontiers other than tertiary-source encyclopedic knowledge. Finally, I've just learned that your request has been approved, yaay, so go break a leg! =D --Solstag (talk) 01:23, 20 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

"Travel, gain trust, witness": the encyclopedic value of oral sources[edit]

"verifiable: anyone can learn the language, wait for a similar occasion, travel to the community and gain their trust, and witness another narrative on the same subject. It is uncomfortable and expensive, but not impossible." I'm afraid this is not what in the context of modern Western scientific tradition has been meant by "verifiable". An oral source could be regarded verifiable to some extent if it has been recorded and become publicly available, but even then, in most cases it is only seen to prove "one person has said that X", certainly not "X" and possibly even not "people from Y believe that X". If we stretch the meaning of "verifiable" to "travel, gain trust, witness", we can pretty much say that everything anyone ever has told anyone is "verifiable" in the same way. I can claim that I have heard an oral narrative from an indigenous Russian intelligence officer saying that Russian Lunohod program proved the Moon is made of cheese and there is piece of it in a secret vault; it is "verifiable", because you can learn the language, travel to Russia, gain the trust of their intelligence community and witness the same tale behind a glass of vodka. After all this trouble, all you can verify is that someone is saying something, it does not prove that they are correct or even that they have not embellished their tales; labelling someone "indigenous" does not guarantee they are more knowledgeable or truthful than "non-indigenous" persons. --Oop (talk) 16:29, 5 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Other problems that we have is who we should label "indigenous", what would count as "indigenous knowledge", and if being labelled as "indigenous" would actually grant some expertise in such knowledge. Many anthropologists would say that I belong amongst an indigenous people who has lived in the same area since the Ice Age. Should my "orally available indigenous knowledge" about local history, geography or nature be trusted equally to scientific accounts? I can show you a tree in my hometown that, as everbody knows, was planted by the Swedish king Charles XII; unfortunately, dendrologists say it was seeded much later than in 18th century. Should we present both claims as equally valid in Wikipedia? All kinds of memoirs, urban or non-urban folklore, etc are relevant sources for science and hence for encyclopedias, but they have to be distinguished from the critical types of sources and handled differently. --Oop (talk) 16:29, 5 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
To sum it up: how exactly Wikimedians should collect and treat oral knowledge, is an important question. I personally think the whole Wikimedia movement might benefit if there was a major conference devoted to that and other aspects of what exactly is knowledge nowadays in encyclopedic sense, considering both the badly documented indigenous cultures and modern technological issues. Such discussions could give us well-weighted basis to form good policies for Wikimedia projects and WMF. This particular project, though, does not seem to be founded on a clear recognition of the problems that might arise from simply equalizing all sources without any critical approach. Encyclopedias, including Wikipedia, originate from a tradition of critical scientific thinking, and if we decide to give it up, the result might be interesting and useful, but not an encyclopedia. Therefore, I would be all for financing a project where people would record oral presentations of indigenous knowledge, including all necessary metadata (who, where, on what occasion, etc), publishing the recordings and transcriptions on Commons or Wikisources. Yet, you proudly state: "We will not upload anything to Commons and rather make the point that oral citations are verifiable without that upload." Sorry, I do not think it would be sensible to finance a project for inserting "this people came from there three hundred years ago/this plant is edible/malaria can be cured by this ritual (source: my uncle/a nice old guy/the chief of the tribe said so)" in the articles. --Oop (talk) 16:29, 5 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Hi Oop, I believe a couple of your comments are misunderstandings, please allow me to clarify:
  1. I'm afraid this is not what in the context of modern Western scientific tradition has been meant by "verifiable" --- That's just one of the points I tried to make: Western scientific tradition has printed publications for discourse, Non-western tradition has different means. Wikipedia is for all knowledge, not just Western one, and I think (being very much a Western scientist myself) the automatic assumption that Western science is superior to all other knowledge systems is an effect of Wikipedia's systemic bias.
  2. An oral source could be regarded verifiable to some extent if it has been recorded and become publicly available --- The oral sources that I have in mind already are publicly available. You may travel to any official arena of oral knowledge dissemination and become a member of the audience.
  3. even then, in most cases it is only seen to prove "one person has said that X", certainly not "X" and possibly even not "people from Y believe that X". That's similar to written sources. All they say is "one person has written that X", with all its implications.
  4. memoirs... folklore... my uncle/a nice old guy/the chief of the tribe said so... That's a very common mischaracterisation of orally disseminated knowledge; I'm not surprised that it comes up here. Sorry if I'm coming across as patronising, but did you have a look at the background documents that I provided? There is valuable knowledge that still is orally transmitted, at this day and age, from engineering, midwifery, animal husbandry, navigation, et cetera. Transferring this knowledge differs from occasional chit-chat, just as the occasional singing in the bathroom differs from an opera performance.
  5. Should my "orally available indigenous knowledge" about local history, geography or nature be trusted equally to scientific accounts? --- Wikipedia wants to be the sum of all human knowledge, not just the sum of all Western knowledge. If there are conflicting accounts, the Western-science influenced reader will anyway trust the Western account. If there is a well-justified conflicting view, what damage does its inclusion potentially do? BTW, in your tree example, you do not have that knowledge, as you have not, or not anymore, a justification for it. Whoever the indigenous person is that still believes in a different tree age, will have such justification, and that person's oral account could be considered, not yours.
--Pgallert (talk) 14:34, 6 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Definition of indigenous knowledge: I have for now used this one: Indigenous knowledge (IK) is "the body of historically constituted (emic) knowledge instrumental in the long--term adaptation of human groups to the biophysical environment" (Purcell), but this is still defining IK from a Western perspective. A good definition for IK is currently a subject of scientific inquiry.
Upload to Commons: This has severe ethical implications and was the single most important concern that sank Achal Prabhala's project, see here.
--Pgallert (talk) 14:51, 6 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Response from WMF[edit]

Thank you for this innovative and thorough proposal. We are excited you propose to move the oral citation conversation foward by developing concrete case studies. Please see our comments below:

  1. The Project and Event Grants Program is the correct grantmaking program for this type of proposal since you are not seeking compensation for your time and it is an off-wiki event. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 23:36, 7 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  2. You can add a contingency line item to the budget for up to 10% of the overall budget total. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 23:36, 7 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  3. We do not expect oral citations from indigenous populations to conflict with Western scientific knowledge. Our understanding is that oral citations assert what people think and do not assert that their opinion is the only truth. For example, "This plant is considered by the tribe of x to have medicinal purposes" rather than "this plant cures cancer." Please let us know if this understanding is correct. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 23:36, 7 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
  4. In response to Oop's comment above, we acknowledge that this is a major policy question for every project in the movement. If and when it ever comes to creating an oral citation policy, it's very likely that a broad gathering would be useful. This project may well be useful groundwork for any such event. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 23:36, 7 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]
Dear WMF, dear Alex, thanks for the encouraging and kind words. In response to your comments:
  1. OK, thanks for clarifying this.
  2. Yes check.svg Done, please be so kind to check whether this is an acceptable format and formulation.
  3. I'm afraid this is a somewhat problematic assumption, for the following reasons:
    • First, the assumption of this experiment is that no written sources exist, and that only oral citations can be used to reference the to-be-added content. Assuming further that oral knowledge repositories are not in principle weaker than, or inferior to, written repositories, we would indeed want to write "Applied to open wounds, the leafs of this plant reduce bleeding [oral citation]" rather than "Tribe X uses the leafs of this plant to reduce bleeding [oral citation]". Only if Western science disagrees (cf. e.g. en:Hoodia gordonii) would the second clause be more appropriate, but even then the oral citation would no longer be as independent (a member of tribe X talking about tribe X) as it would be for the first (a member of tribe X talking about plant Y).
    • Communities and tribes that for centuries have been described from an alien perspective only, by mercenaries, traders, missionaries and anthropologists, are regularly mischaracterised by these sources. This is even worse in Southern Africa, where it would be trivial to find written sources negatively stereotyping indigenous peoples. If you want, the entire anthropological literature of the early 20th century is POV when authored by the colonial elite. Narratives of culture and values would almost necessarily differ.
    • Early scientists in southern Africa made numerous mistakes, and are often the only available written accounts. Just like the majority of 19th century physics is no longer considered true, anthropology from that time might need to be corrected occasionally. Reports on the genealogy of tribal chiefs, for instance, are at best one-to-one transcripts of oral narratives. The direct use of the narrative itself would be a better source for such content.
  4. I'm still struggling to gather a suitable audience for this type of discussion, particularly for an open exchange on what is verifiable, what is publishing, what is a secondary source, in the context of oral knowledge transfer. Conference-type gatherings like Wikimania have the weakness that the talk tends to draw supporters rather than opposers, noticeboards tend to draw opposers rather than supporters. Both groups need to come together to have a fruitful discussion, and I'd be happy about any suggestion on how this might be achieved.
--Pgallert (talk) 10:45, 8 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Pgallert. Thank you for the more detailed explanation. We definitely agree with your example and that it should be acceptable to support a non-metaphysical, non-science-contradicting claim with an oral citation. More specifically, it would be great to juxtapose oral-citation-supported claims next to (especially non-current) anthropological claims regarding things like tribal history, geography, etc. Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 03:22, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Pgallert. Thank you for the updates to the grant request. Can you also please review the start and end dates? We don't typically approve retrospective grants so please select a date in the future when you would start implementing this project. In terms of the end date, grant reports are due 60 days after the completion date of the grant. If you foresee needing extra time for evaluation of the results, please update the end date. Thanks, Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 21:42, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

No problem, I just adjusted the start date. I am confident that reporting will be done 60 days after October 14, 2014. --Pgallert (talk) 21:48, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]


I acknowledge that this page is becoming increasingly tl;dr. Compared to the version when this grant submission went live, the following things have changed:

  1. A contingency line was added, comprising 10% of the total cost.
  2. The term 'participatory design' has been defined, and the aim of the Participatory Design Conference has been clarified.
  3. Several dates have been made explicit: When will I need to know whether this grant is successful or not, and when will I need the funds.
  4. Questions on top of this talk page have been integrated in the grant proposal
  5. The page has been moved from Grants: to Grants:PEG
  6. The storage space of the experiment results has been changed from old: en-wp main space to new: Wikipedia: name space, in order not to violate en-wp policy.

I would be grateful if original commenters would make another turn here and voice further objections, or adjust their verdict to the changes that were made. Thanks and best regards, Pgallert (talk) 21:42, 9 May 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Edit requests[edit]

As per instructions I should not make further edits to this grant proposal. However, in order to improve readability and consistency, I request permission to make the following changes. I believe none of them affects fundability of this project.

  1. Workshop start date: 1 October 2014
  2. Workshop end date: 3 October 2014
  3. Village to be visited: en:Otjinene
  4. List of activities during the workshop: We will be one full day (two nights) at the village. That some of the rural knowledge bearers would be at the conference venue was a misunderstanding between me and the conference chair. Item 3 will be one full day, item 5 will not take place.
  5. Budget table remarks: Ghana is no longer connected to Namibia by direct flight
  6. Workshop co-facilitator: The envisaged co-facilitator cannot attend. I will facilitate on my own. As I anyway could only admit four participants due to insufficient interest of the editor community, it will be unproblematic to have only one facilitator.

Thanks for considering, with best regards, Pgallert (talk) 10:59, 20 August 2014 (UTC)[reply]

Hi Pgallert, thanks for the updated information. You may make these changes to the proposal. Please be sure to use strikethrough where appropriate. Thanks, Alex Wang (WMF) (talk) 16:26, 20 August 2014 (UTC)[reply]