Uneven Openness: Barriers to MENA Representation on Wikipedia
Graham, M., and Hogan, B. 2014. Uneven Openness: Barriers to MENA Representation on Wikipedia. Oxford Internet Institute Report, Oxford UK.
140 Pages Posted: 4 May 2014
Date Written: April 29, 2014
In this report we detail the activities and research insights of the funded project “Who represents the Arab world online? Using the case of Wikipedia to map and measure local knowledge production and representation in the Middle East and North Africa.” We highlight the persistent information asymmetries between the MENA region and much of the developed world. We explore this through the use of data from Wikipedia and the Wikimedia foundation that has been extensively processed using a variety of tools from computer science. We augment this analysis with a series of qualitative insights discerned from two workshops with active Wikipedians in the MENA region. These workshops also served as forms of capacity building.
In general, we believe that editing Wikipedia is an intensive task that is dominated by the global North and replete with a great deal of barriers to entry. It is nevertheless a key activity for future development of a stable information ecology within the MENA region. This is especially valid given how extensively Wikipedia is used across the web in sites such as Facebook and Google.
We believe that capacity building among key Wikipedians can create greater understanding and offset much of the emotional labour required to sustain activity on the site in the face of intense arguments and ideological biases. However, we also believe that a distinct lack of sources both owning to a lack of legitimacy for MENA journalism and a paucity of open access government documents inhibit further growth in this area. Future work should be dedicated to these issues of support for active existing Wikipedians and knowledge sharing of Canada’s best practices in information sharing to facilitate accelerated growth of geographic content in the MENA region. But the ultimate difference will come from increased diffusion of broadband internet technology as demonstrated through several statistical models. We articulate local exceptions to this rule, but remain committed to an overall strategy of capacity building and broadband diffusion.
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