Wednesday, April 30, 2014

BADD 2014: Wikipedia Against Disablism

Manke Nelis 933-9662
Manke Nelis (1919-1983), a Dutch singer and musician whose right leg was amputated after a motorcycle accident in the 1950s; in this image, he is an older man on a sports field, singing into a microphone, with his arms raised.  His sweatshirt reads "Nelis Goes to Hollywood." Image from Wikimedia Commons (of course).

(Blowing dust from the mike)

Tap tap tap.... hello? testing... hello?

Yeah, it's been a long time since we posted any new content here on DSTU.  But today is Blogging Against Disablism Day, and I have it on good authority (from Goldfish directly) that we're the only blog that participated in all eight previous BADDs, so I'd hate to break that streak.  We're here for BADD. 

Our previous eight appearances:  2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006. (For the record, the 2007 and 2008 entries are two of my favorite blog posts I've ever written, on any blog, or any topic.  BADD has been good for me.)

If you clicked any of those links, you'll know I usually blog about disability history for BADD--about the ways we use and record history, the stories we forget, and the stories we need to remember and retell.  This year, I'm on the same soapbox, but this time, no rant--instead, a challenge. 

For the past couple years, I've been putting more and more time and energy into editing on Wikipedia.  It's not easy, but it's interesting, and I seem to have a knack for it. I'm slowly learning how to do more and more there. I know schoolkids aren't supposed to use Wikipedia, but I hope they do anyway, because I'm consistently impressed with the way new entries are combed for typos, outlandish declarations, and unsupported claims of notability.  Writing on Wikipedia makes me think about the details.

I mostly create biographical entries for women, artists and scientists and museum folk not previously represented with full entries.  In addition to starting new entries, I make many small edits on existing entries--and some of those small edits involve shifts in language, removing cliches, decreasing melodrama, respecting personhood.  In other words, I find ways to use Wikipedia to fight disablism when I spot it.   Might seem extremely minor, but these entries are consulted by many thousands more readers than a journal article or a blog post will ever draw.  And the beauty of crowdsourcing is in the cumulative effect of many little contributions and improvements.

So now the challenge:  join me.  Or maybe join WikiProject Disability, which is the gathering of Wikipedians interested in disability topics.  Editing from a base of support and coordination like a WikiProject helps in learning the ropes. Or try an edit-athon--there are several going on in any given month--you can participate in person or virtually.  Edit-athons are supportive events, and tend to bring more attention to their products.   Can you contribute images or sound clips to Wikimedia, or verified quotes to Wikiquote, for use in Wikipedia entries?  Maybe you can translate an entry, or add a Wikipedia assignment to your course syllabus.

There's plenty of work to do out there--and Wikipedia is one pretty nifty place to do some of it. 

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