Eula Hall

Eula Hall, founder of the Mud Creek Clinic near Grethel, Ky., is one of the entries that has been edited by participants in the edit-a-thon event.

WVU Libraries is hosting “Amplifying Appalachia,” a virtual Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon from March 1-5. The event is open to anyone who would like to participate.

Assistant English professor and co-organizer of the event Erin Brock Carlson said Edit-a-Thon is a “community-organized event that aims to teach attendees how to edit, update and add articles on Wikipedia, with the hope that this would create like regular contributors and regular editors.”

At the event’s kickoff Zoom meeting on March 1, Carlson and her co-organizer, Humanities Librarian Lynne Stahl, spoke about the astounding lack of diversity among current Wikipedia contributors.

Carlson cited a 2011 study conducted by the Wikimedia Foundation that found that less than 10% of Wikipedia contributors identify as (cisgender or transgender) women, and only about 17% of Wikipedia’s biographical articles are about women.

“There's one really wonderful organization called Art + Feminism... founded in 2014,” Carlson said during the Zoom meeting. “It's this ongoing effort to really improve gender equity in Wikipedia's art-related content, because that's a space in which there is definitely a lack of representation.”

WVU’s “Amplifying Appalachia” Edit-a-Thon is supported by Art + Feminism, which has already contributed to improving more than 80,000 Wikipedia articles at the time of writing.

Previously, WVU has only held in-person Edit-a-Thons, but the “Amplifying Appalachia'' planning committee was determined to overcome the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic in organizing this entirely virtual event.

The Edit-a-Thon will be continuing through the week until Friday, March 5, following an asynchronous format. According to Carlson, an asynchronous format might allow for more people to edit on their own time and at their own pace.

Participation is expected to exceed the planning committee’s goals, with 81 participants currently enrolled.

“We’ve [also] been working with 15 or so instructors who are incorporating the Edit-a-Thon into their courses this semester, which is exciting,” Stahl added.

Carlson and Stahl also emphasized during the event’s kickoff Zoom meeting that although editing Wikipedia pages may seem like a daunting task, it’s actually quite simple once you get started.

“Familiarizing yourself with [Wikipedia’s] major guidelines and policies is a good idea,” Stahl said, “and once you’ve done that, I think the best way [to get started] is just to jump in and make some edits. You can start small—adding links, sources and categories, for example, which helped me get over the intimidation factor.”

The event’s organizers have put together a collection of resources that can be easily accessed through the event dashboard to help answer any questions new editors may have.

According to Carlson, the planning committee hopes that the “Amplifying Appalachia” Edit-a-Thon will help increase familiarity with Wikipedia across campus and encourage the amplification of stories, people and accomplishments of Appalachia, especially for women, people of color, LGBTQ+ community members and others who are often overlooked.

In addition, drop-in hours will be open to all from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. March 4-5 via Zoom, and a post-participation survey will be available for anyone who has participated in the event.

“Since Wikipedia is a community-driven, crowd-sourced space for information, it’s up to us to make sure that it reflects the stories that ought to be told,” Carlson said.