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Strategy/Wikimedia movement/2018-20/2019 Community Conversations/Diversity

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Scoping format[edit]

What is your area of inquiry?[edit]

Diversity and how it has been impacted by colonial and postcolonial bias on Wikimedia, gender and representation, indigenous representation, geographic representation, languages, new audiences and historic marginalization of various groups. Each of these topics evaluates different aspects and characteristics -- i.e. ages, colonized peoples, differently-abled people, ethnicities, genders, indigenous peoples, people from emerging countries, language speakers, etc. -- which have legally or socially been barred from or impacted in contributing their world view and knowledge to our collective knowledge, as well as suggestions on how the movement stakeholders can support addressing these deficiencies.


What is the current situation?[edit]

The world-wide effects of marginalization have left an imbalance in our collective history. Throughout history, power structures and dominance, have silenced diverse voices and created imbalance in our knowledge of the events and people who have shaped our world, as well as in the systems which we use to disseminate that knowledge. Common issues across all parts of the Wikimedia movement, though not limited to Wikimedia include, creation of content where male is the norm and any other gender identity is an exception, where indigenous customs and practices are excluded or analyzed from an “outsider” perspective, where colonized peoples’ experiences are represented as the same as those of their colonizers, where the experiences of people with disabilities, the aged, the LGBT community and other groups are  represented as divergences from “normal” experience, etc.

According to World Wide Consortium, nearly 54 % of the some 10 million websites are written in English. This prevalence is tied to global socio-economic dictates and pervasiveness of the English language in Western culture. In consequence, participating in the Wikimedia movement requires advanced English (i.e. major Wikimedia events, mailing lists, governance bodies, etc).  Languages that have significant numbers of speakers in the world (like Arabic, Spanish, and many others) are not proportionally represented within the Movement, in content or participation mechanisms. Most world languages do not produce academic papers, multimedia content, or even printed materials. Some languages exist only orally, while others though they may be written have no standard orthography. Low awareness of Wikipedia is also a complicated layer to this issue. In western nations, the awareness of Wikipedia is high amongst the internet population while the opposite is the case in emerging nations. Thus in both participation and content there is proportional representation to the awareness.[1]

The results of these challenges have created wide recognition that there are gaps in both content and contributions by women -which is one of the most relevant due to many global efforts that have worked to make it visible and reduce it, indigenous people, communities from the global south, people who do not speak a major language, among others. These are problems common to all encyclopedias, textbooks and the writing down of history in general that have preceded the Wikimedia movement. Lack of equal access and opportunity continues to impact groups which have been marginalized as there is a lack of understanding of their cultures, history, and contributions, which in turn impacts their ability to fully participate in an open society.


Why this scope?[edit]

Diversity is an extremely broad topic, covering almost every aspect of existence. Figuring out how to balance an open platform, systemic biases, and policy based on diversity is a huge challenge. Wikimedia projects have become a visible measure of factual and accurate knowledge with openness as a founding principle. However, care must be taken to insure that the various projects do not become mouthpieces of dominant cultures and knowledge systems. The focus on English inserts a systemic bias into the work of the stakeholders and creates an exclusionary reality for the collaboration of people, groups, and local and non-local initiatives in learning and the sharing of knowledge.

Though the idea of a totally neutral and universal knowledge is not possible, we know that languages, backgrounds, ages and cultures shape what we know and how we understand it. If the Wikimedia movement focuses on the narrative of predominantly mainstream knowledge and academia, marginalized populations are silenced and further isolated. Worse, their history is told in someone else’s inauthentic voice.

The Diversity Group has examined how policies and practices could be examined, re-written or implemented to safeguard the inclusion of various groups, bring participants in to an environment that nurtures collaboration, and expand the stakeholder’s outreach to broader audiences.  We recognize that different kinds of resources may be required to adequately reflect historically marginalized people and cultures within the scope of Wikimedia’s mission. Our questions are aimed at ensuring that diversity of knowledge in all of the various projects will lead to both empowering and meaningful knowledge platforms.


Scoping questions[edit]

What are the key questions within the scope of the Working Group?[edit]

  1. Can we establish that every community must have a code of conduct which provides for inclusion of diversity? How does a commitment to diversity also manifest itself in the governance structures of our movement’s organizations, in our public relations, and social media representation?
  2. How do we transform our culture and collaborating spaces, including (but not limited to) articles, general discussions, talk pages, and Commons to support diverse representation of contributors and writers, as well as our definitions of reliable sources and  neutrality, to build a safe environment where everyone (minorities/unrepresented/underrepresented/mainstream groups and cultures) is included and can see their knowledge represented and talk openly about themselves?
  3. How do we avoid the pitfall of recentism, tapping in to elder networks, LGBT networks, women’s networks, indigenous communities, etc. to develop volunteers for the project as writers, developers, and document gatherers to find and preserve our hidden collective history?
  4. What effective measures should be taken for the future so our greater community can use languages other than English in order to make decisions, eliminating the requirement for a mastery of English as part of our decision-making community?  
  5. What steps should stakeholders take to ensure language diversity across various platforms (languages, technology, interfaces and organisations for research, oral and visual technologies) to provide support  to ensure the broadest possible representation of various languages as well as those with physical and cognitive challenges to participate in our movement?
  6. Do those who are learning (children and youth in particular) understand the content presented in and our projects and is the knowledge available in their learning language or platforms? Is it even attractive for their learning processes and reading-terminals (i.e. generations now learning more on video) ?
  7. Does integrating historically marginalized groups require that the movement stakeholders rethink its Creative Commons tenets by incorporating use of “No Derivative Works (ND)“ and “No Commercial Works” (NC) licensing (as well as changes on principles of notability and definitions and usage of other sources) to facilitate “authenticity” of voices which have been historically prohibited from telling their own history?
  8. What capacities should be developed within the Movement to combat the tensions that might arise due to increased content/knowledge from more diverse communities on Wikimedia platforms?
  9. How do we increase awareness in low awareness regions, in order to ensure adequate representation, both in level of volunteer participation and amount of content?
  10. As volunteering is essentially a role for the privileged, should Wikimedia Foundation start giving monetary incentives and honorarium for people who volunteer a huge amount of their time to movement activities?


  1. According to 2018 statistics from Wikimedia Foundation’s research, in the United States and France, the awareness of Wikipedia is 87% and 84% respectively. In contrast; Mexico, Nigeria, India, Brazil and Iraq are spotting 53%, 48%, 40%, 39% and 25% respectively. The 2018 figures from developing countries are much improved, from more dire situations before the Wikipedia campaigns inspired by local Wikimedia communities in the last 2 years. For example, Nigeria used to have awareness rate of 23% in just 2017.