Weeks twelve & thirteen: Wikipedia

Over the next two weeks, we’ll learn about the principles and practice that underpin one of the top ten most visited websites in the world – indeed, our first session is also the the fifteenth birthday of Wikipedia! While you’re completing these tasks, you might like listen to Wikipedia being edited in real time. I have not assigned specific tasks and reading to specific weeks, but please start with ‘How Wikipedia works’ and we will go from there.

How Wikipedia works

There’s a lot of information about how Wikipedia works, so be prepared for a signifcant amount of reading (and some repetition – so feel free to skip sections if you think you’ve understood that particular point). Please read:




In the seminar we will reflect on the question: what processes and policies does Wikipedia have in place to ensure its viability? We will then consider some of the aspects of information bias on Wikipedia (and by extension on the WWW). In preparation, please read:

Roy Rosenzweig, ‘Can History be Open Source? Wikipedia and the Future of the Past.’ [Online. Originally published in The Journal of American History Volume 93, Number 1 (June, 2006): 117-46]. This was published on the 5th birthday of Wikipedia.

Eryk Salvaggio, Information privilege and Wikipedia: a conversation with Char Booth (part 1).

Adrianne Wadewitz, Looking at the five pillars of Wikipedia as a feminist, part two. (Wadewitz was reknowned for driving this issue  – look her up on the HASTAC site – and was a scholar of eighteenth-century literature to boot).

Pay it forward and become a Wikipedian!

Towards the end of these sessions we will edit Wikipedia. In preparation, please

  1. Sign up for an account (top right of any page). Did you choose an anonymous user name, or a pseudonym, or your real name? What affected your decision?
  2. Wikipedia has a huge number of what are called ‘stubs’? What are these? Can you find a list?
  3. Now browse the stub category Culture and find a stub that concerns something literary from the period 1600-1830. Given that, in order for you to contribute to the entry, you will have to research this in preparation for this session, you should choose something that interests you and about which you already know a little.

In the seminar we will add to that stub ensuring that it abides by Wikipedia’s policies. Read the editing history of that stub. Make sure you add your own editing record.