Hannah Rothmann is an intern at Edinburgh University, training with our Wikimedian in Residence who is based there, Ewan McAndrew. Hannah wrote this post for the University’s blog.
Hi, my name is Hannah and I will be going into the final year of my Classics degree in September. I have just finished week 1 of my Wikimedia Training Internship; the start date was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the uncertainty that came with it. Adjusting to working remotely from home, meeting new people but over video calls and Microsoft teams and also learning about entirely new things has meant that it has been a strange and somewhat nerve-racking first week and not what I would have expected from a summer internship a year ago. Thankfully, my line manager, Ewan McAndrew, has been very welcoming and made me feel at ease despite this novel situation!
The Wikimedia Training Internship caught my attention among a long and varied list of Employ.Ed internships. The aim of my internship of is to create materials to teach people how to edit and use Wikipedia and Wikidata with the goal of them becoming active editors and contributing to a growing database of free, credible and jointly gathered information. I was shocked when I discovered this week that only around 18% of biographical pages on the English Wikipedia are about women! Hopefully, by making more accessible teaching materials we will be able to address this imbalance and increase the diversity of Wikipedia and Wikidata. This means making resources that avoid complicated jargon, address all stumbling blocks a beginner wiki-user may encounter and will enable the uninitiated to become confident editors and contributors.
Wikimedia UK believes ‘that open access to knowledge is a fundamental right and a driver in the democratic creation, distribution and consumption of knowledge’. These aims demonstrate the importance of the work of Wikimedia UK. My line manager Ewan stressed this importance and that Wikimedia related activities have a growing significance in a learning environment shifting more towards the digital world when he had to argue that the internship should go ahead despite financial impact COVID-19 on the university; many internships were cancelled. My internship will hopefully enable remote learning and help people see how they can change their approach to teaching to incorporate Wikimedia related activities into how students learn.
This aim means that the work I am doing is firmly rooted in the present and even the future. Just this week I have learnt new ways to use technology and skills which will be indispensable in a world moving ever more into the realm of online, online learning and the online experience. Although at first glance this internship appears in direct contrast to my Classics degree, which is focussed among other things on reading and interpreting ancient texts, the aim of a Classics degree, in my opinion, is to understand that ideas and concepts of whatever period always have relevance and there is always the possibility of continual learning. The different skills I will develop in my internship and the skills I am learning from my degree will hopefully enrich my approach to work and any work that I do in this time and in the future.
So far, I have been getting used to remote working and all the quirks that come with it (hoovering is not something that goes too well with a work video call for example!) and I have also been figuring out where the gaps are in the current resources that Ewan has to teach people about Wikipedia and Wikidata while also filling in my rather large gaps of knowledge. For example, I had no idea what Wikidata really was before the start of my first week and I am still trying to understand it fully. I was lucky enough to attend the NHLI Women in Science Wikithon at the end of my first week which gave me a chance to implement what I had learnt about Wikipedia editing and it showed me how much more still needs to be done to improve diversity. Dr Jess Wade, who was Wikimedia UK’s Wikimedian of the year 2019, gave an introduction exploring why we should all edit Wikipedia. She has personally made hundreds and hundreds of Wikipedia pages for women and for notable women in science who previously had been ignored and in doing this has increased awareness regarding Wikipedia and how it can be used to tackle inequality and lack of diversity. After this introduction, it was a treat to have some training from Dr Alice White who showed us how to begin editing and creating our own pages. I edited some pages already created but lacking details, for example a page about Dr Susan Bewley, as I did not feel quite ready to begin making my own pages. The work Dr Jess Wade has been doing and continues to do along with this event really showed me how Wikipedia could be used as a force for good and also the importance of ensuring people have access to learning materials.
I am excited about getting to grips with my internship, developing skills, challenging my abilities all with the aim to make Wikipedia and Wikidata a platform that anyone anywhere will feel able to use, edit and appreciate!