User:Daria Cybulska (WMUK)
Director of Programmes and Evaluation, Wikimedia UK
Daria studied Philosophy at Kings College London, and supported a number of organisations in the charity sector after graduating. Daria has worked at Wikimedia UK since 2012, initially focusing on events, outreach, partnerships, and community development, and now serving as the Director of Programmes and Evaluation. Wikimedia UK is an independent UK-based charity focusing on programs and advocacy for open knowledge but is a part of the global Wikimedia movement. Daria was initially drawn to Wikimedia because of its open, start-up character, and the beauty of people building on each others’ contributions. Since then she has developed programs to Increase Knowledge Equity via bringing diverse people and content onto Wikimedia projects. In the last few years, she collaborated on Wikimedia’s 2030 global strategy with colleagues across the globe, a process that brought many reflections about accessibility, inclusion, and equity within collaborative knowledge projects. Daria is a trustee at Global Dialogue - a field building organisation for funders, a platform for philanthropic partnerships within human rights space.
Churchill Fellowship 2023-24
I was awarded a 2023/24 Churchill Fellowship. Daria will visit Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, to identify new approaches and tools available to communities for safe and efficient activism online. She will be using the learning captured to improve work she delivers in the UK.
The fellowship seeks to identify new approaches and tools available to communities for safe and efficient self-organising online. It looks at civil society, shrinking civic space, proactive responses from communities to threats such as internet disruptions, online harassment, and general digital authoritarianism. Strong civil society empowers people to take collective action for good, outside of the State or business. Coming from Poland, I value the richness of UK civil society, yet am attuned to how it could be silenced.
My research focuses on Central Asia, where threats to online civil societies are real and immediate. But civil society is pushing back in innovative ways. UK civic space is more open - but protecting our civic space isn’t getting the attention it needs. My findings will be directly applicable to my work at Wikimedia.
I will explore how civil society in Central Asia, operating within a shrinking physical civic space, has developed online. My research questions are:
- What tools have they developed, which could be useful in the UK context?
- What resources, skills and modes of organisation make it possible for them to be effective?
- Which of their solutions might be applicable in the UK context?
I am to investigate how networks of online activists in my target countries
- Create the architecture of collaboration and activism
- Create and share knowledge online
- Move action from the virtual to the physical world – and back again
Based on what I learn, I aim to produce:
- a toolkit for UK users based on my learning
- a new method to facilitate effective online collaboration within British civil society.
The Churchill Fellowship is the UK’s national memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. It promotes the global exchange of ideas and understanding between peoples, through the work of the Fellows we appoint each year.
I'm is seeking contacts both in Central Asia, and back in the UK for dissemination of findings. Contact me on daria.cybulskawikimedia.org.uk
The ultimate aim of the research project is to contribute to building a better equipped, more empowered, and resilient civil society in the UK. This resilience is an urgent need and has a long-term benefit of nurturing our democracy and creating a vibrant public space. We need new ideas to protect the two ideas at the heart of functioning liberal democracies: truth and privacy.
I have great ambitions for this project. I’ve applied for the fellowship before and still believe I have something useful to contribute. I hope to see change at two specific levels
- I hope the toolkit I create will be taken up by groups of many different kinds when they go about their activities. Instead of asking, ‘should we have a Facebook page’, groups will be able to ask, what kind of online space facilitates the best collaboration; what is the most appropriate architecture; what pitfalls should we avoid?
- My learning will have a reach through my professional networks – especially through the Wikipedia movement and through Global Dialogue, but also in the many organisations with which we collaborate.
AKO Storytelling Institute Fellowship 2023-24
I was successful in securing an information literacy fellowship project at the newly established AKO Storytelling Institute, based at the University Arts London. The Institute is investigating the theory and practice of storytelling-for-change, and in that works across disciplines - art, campaigning, social change and social impact, research, impact production, strategic communications, media, product design, philantrophy. One of the modes of delivery for the Institute is fellowships (https://www.arts.ac.uk/storytelling-institute/fellowship) - in 2023 12 fellows were chosen for a 9 month programme to explore how storytelling can lead to social change.
The inaugural year (September 2023 - June 2024) focuses on the theme of Truth and Lies, investigating the relationship between storytelling and misinformation, and the potential for storytelling to address complex threats posed by misinformation. The fellows are invited to investigate potential pathways for change, target audiences, tactics and creative approaches - in producing a creative response, new narrative approach or a research insight.
My project focus and research question - “Information literacy skills of a conspiracy theorist”
The starting point of my project is an observation - the narrative around building information literacy skills sounds very similar to how conspiracy theorists talk about their approach to research (Check sources, don’t immediately trust what you see, connect the dots, think about who funded the information, do your own research, etc). Are information literacy educators closer than we realise to the conspiracy theorists approach to engaging with information? Further, are into lit educators pushing some people into conspiratorial approaches, by conveying a distrustful approach to the information ecosystem, and giving them skills and approaches which resonate with conspiracy theorists?
My goal is to highlight this similarity in narrative - especially to info lit educators - and prompt people's responses, reactions.
I also want to complicate the narrative which dismisses conspiracy theorists as uneducated, misguided, undiscerning.
The output is currently TBC, possibly a range of products (or prototypes for these), including a short narrative piece playing with the similarities and overlaps I aim to highlight.