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“Writing up rather than writing down”Becoming Wikipedia literate         “W   r           H. Ford & S. Geiger             ...
Literacy scholarshipTwo main approaches (from Street 1993):•Educators and psychologists take a skills-based approach and f...
Studying “literacy” and      WikipediaTwo main approaches have dominated:•Reader-focused: responsible use of Wikipediaas a...
Studying “literacy” and      WikipediaWe instead focus on organizational literacy, the“background knowledges” (Darville 19...
Trace literacyWikipedians extensively use trace data – revisionhistories, edit summaries, templates, warnings,tags, logs, ...
New Wikipedians don’t always know that:•Talk pages, edit summaries, and process pages are used toperform different kinds o...
Method• Grounded accounts of actual practice in different socio-cultural contexts in order to understand the central role ...
Misreadings,    misunderstandings1.“Misreading organizational texts”2.“Agentless accounts”3.“Writing up rather than writin...
1. Misreading   organizational texts• “Misreading is not about being unable to  get words off the page, but rather being  ...
http://chronicle.com/article/The-Undue-Weight-of-Truth-on/130704/
2. “Agentless accounts”• “When the agents of actions are deleted  from texts, readers must “fill them in,” using  a backgr...
• Kipsizoo “... we opted to try to create it in  Swahili rather. Cause the guys are so harsh  (on English WP)... We clearl...
3. “Writing up rather  than writing down”• “What counts is how matters can be  written up (to enter them into the  organiz...
In conclusion• literacy is a way of exercising power in  Wikipedia;• debates surrounding these deletions are often  about ...
The risk?    Claims that Wikipedians are merely  opposed to the perspectives of thosedissimilar from them (whether that is...
Writing up rather than writing down: Becoming Wikipedia literate
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Writing up rather than writing down: Becoming Wikipedia literate

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Stuart Geiger and I presented a paper about Wikipedia literacy in Linz, Austria for WikiSym 2012 (link below). It’s in the short paper series in which we introduce the concept of of “trace literacy”, a multi-faceted theory of literacy that sheds light on what new knowledges and organizational forms are required to improve participation in Wikipedia’s communities. The paper focuses on three short case studies about the misunderstandings resulting from article deletions in the past year and relate them to three key problems that literacy practitioner and scholar, Richard Darville outlined in his English literacy research. Two of the case studies are from interviews that we did with Kenyan Wikipedians, and the other concerns the Haymarket affair article controversy. Literacy, we believe, has a lot more to do with users being able to understand the complex traces left by experienced editors and how, where and when to argue their case, than simply learning how MediaWiki syntax works. Find the paper at: http://www.wikisym.org/ws2012/bin/download/Main/Program/p21wikisym2012.pdf

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Writing up rather than writing down: Becoming Wikipedia literate

  1. 1. “Writing up rather than writing down”Becoming Wikipedia literate “W r H. Ford & S. Geiger WikiSym 2012
  2. 2. Literacy scholarshipTwo main approaches (from Street 1993):•Educators and psychologists take a skills-based approach and focus on elements ofreading and writing•Anthropologists & sociolinguists focus onsocial and cultural aspects of reading andwriting and the rich cultural variations ofthese practicesStreet, B., ed. Cross-Cultural Approaches to Literacy. Cambridge: CambridgeUniversity Press. 1993.
  3. 3. Studying “literacy” and WikipediaTwo main approaches have dominated:•Reader-focused: responsible use of Wikipediaas a resource, similar to “media literacy” forthe news•General purpose: “Web literacy” seeks acommon set of core competencies requiredby digital learners everywhere.
  4. 4. Studying “literacy” and WikipediaWe instead focus on organizational literacy, the“background knowledges” (Darville 1989)needed to be an empowered, literate memberof a community like Wikipedia.Organizational literacies are often highly local,situated, contextual, and tacit.Darville, R. The Language of Experience and the Literacy of Power. In M. Taylor andJ. Draper, eds., Adult Literacy Perspectives. Culture Concepts, Toronto, 1989.
  5. 5. Trace literacyWikipedians extensively use trace data – revisionhistories, edit summaries, templates, warnings,tags, logs, archives – to interact and coordinatetasks.Editors come to know each other not onlythrough interpersonal communication, but alsohighly-complex modes of tracing.
  6. 6. New Wikipedians don’t always know that:•Talk pages, edit summaries, and process pages are used toperform different kinds of specific tasks•Templates like {{hangon}}, {{stub}} and {{helpme}} havespecial meanings in Wikipedia’s bureaucracies•References serve to establish notability of article topics inaddition to verifying individual claims in the article•Edit histories, user talk messages, and usernames are public,and Wikipedians routinely surveil each other•Not all users are human, but there are ways of determiningwho is and who is not a bot
  7. 7. Method• Grounded accounts of actual practice in different socio-cultural contexts in order to understand the central role of power relations in literacy practice.• Focusing on “what went wrong” in order to work out where the system needs to be exposed/made transparent.• 3 case studies of deletions in Kenya and the US.
  8. 8. Misreadings, misunderstandings1.“Misreading organizational texts”2.“Agentless accounts”3.“Writing up rather than writing down” • Richard Darville
  9. 9. 1. Misreading organizational texts• “Misreading is not about being unable to get words off the page, but rather being unable to participate effectively in the social action and relations that are carried in texts and documents - or even to see what that action and those relations are.” Darville
  10. 10. http://chronicle.com/article/The-Undue-Weight-of-Truth-on/130704/
  11. 11. 2. “Agentless accounts”• “When the agents of actions are deleted from texts, readers must “fill them in,” using a background knowledge of how actions are done and who would do them.” Darville
  12. 12. • Kipsizoo “... we opted to try to create it in Swahili rather. Cause the guys are so harsh (on English WP)... We clearly indicated that these are just stub articles. I think it was a bot or something. It wasn’t a real guy... maybe.” • (Interview, Nairobi, Kenya, 4 August, 2011)
  13. 13. 3. “Writing up rather than writing down”• “What counts is how matters can be written up (to enter them into the organizational process), not how they can be written down (to relate experience or aid memory)”. Darville
  14. 14. In conclusion• literacy is a way of exercising power in Wikipedia;• debates surrounding these deletions are often about who was right and who was wrong, without an understanding of what was being misunderstood, what was being misread;• further work on particular types of “background knowledges” for different social, economic, cultural contexts are required to design more transparent systems.
  15. 15. The risk? Claims that Wikipedians are merely opposed to the perspectives of thosedissimilar from them (whether that is that they are from Africa or the academy) is not helping the encyclopedia grow in areas that it is currently weak.

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