CIS-A2K/Research/Mapping Repositories on Gender and Sexuality in Indian Languages

This research study aims to understand the process of content creation on gender and sexuality in Indian languages. It explores the challenges related to their digital documentation and possibilities to bring them on open knowledge platforms such as Wikimedia projects.

Introduction edit

In continuation with earlier work undertaken at CIS-A2K on bridging the gender gap on Wikimedia projects in India, the following study will aim to understand the prevalence of such a gap and bias in Indian language content and its digital documentation/digitisation. It will focus on challenges related to the creation of digital content on gender and sexuality, and how this may contribute to a further disparity in and lack of visibility of such content on open knowledge platforms such as Wikimedia projects.

The study will undertake a mapping of knowledge repositories available with individuals and institutions working on gender-related topics, with a focus on women, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ related content. Possibilities of bringing this content on Wikimedia projects will also be explored, and these will be led by collaboration with and active participation of individuals and organizations working in the field. Drawing from an analysis of this data, and the mainstream discourse related to content creation on gender and sexuality, the study will aim to offer a set of observations on ways to address challenges related to the gender gap in the process of content creation on open knowledge platforms.

Context edit

The last few decades have witnessed an expansion of the digital ecosystem, especially in terms of content creation in multimedia formats. With this expansion, there exists a widening gap among users, especially in terms of access to content related to gender and sexuality online, in multiple, non-dominant languages. Wikimedia platforms, which include the free online encyclopedia and its many sister projects in multiple languages constitute a pivotal part of this digital ecosystem, and is no exception to this problem of the gender gap. The gender gap and bias, as understood on Wikipedia projects, doesn’t just denote the gendered distribution of the contributors, but also the disparity in the creation and use of content related to diverse gender and allied topics. As recognised and noted by Wikipedia, this disparity also uncovers other outcomes such as lack of women in leadership positions, access to training and resources, community health, invisibilization of women’s narratives etc. on these platforms. In a pursuit to overcome this, Wikimedia projects over the last decade have been working on several initiatives and events, particularly to bridge the gender gap and language disparities across its many platforms.

The issue of the gender gap, in content creation and participation, is seen across Indian language Wikimedia communities as well. Challenges related to the gender gap, and efforts to bridge the same by different language communities have been documented in research. Most recently, reports by Lannon (2017), Chang (2019) and Koteeswaran (2021) examine different aspects of the gender gap in Indian language communities, and focus on the need for diverse measures to address the same. These include addressing accessibility, infrastructure and technical knowledge gaps with respect to women’s online and offline participation on Wikimedia projects, training, creating awareness and addressing related aspects such as community health and safety, and the need for more research on this topic.

An important learning from previous research is the need to connect these efforts in bridging the gender gap with larger discourse related to content creation on gender and sexuality online, and in Indian languages. This study will therefore aim to map such content that has been produced in Indian languages by and about individuals and topics related to diverse gender and sexual identities. Unlike existing literature on gender gap on Wikimedia projects, this study does not limit itself to women, rather, it strives to cover content related to the spectrum of gender and sexual identities. Further, this study acknowledges that gendered and sexual identities are not homogenous categories, but are a result of stratification in the society that are social, economic and political which determine various aspects of an individual's life, thereby emphasising on intersectionality. Importantly, it will strive to document and learn from current discourse related to gender and linguistic diversity online across other sectors, its challenges and opportunities, and bring back these observations to inform initiatives related to bridging the gender gap on Wikimedia projects in India.

Research objectives edit

  • To understand and map existing disparities in digital content on gender and allied topics in Indian languages in selected areas, and how these gaps impact the process of content creation on Indian language Wikimedia projects.
  • To map knowledge repositories available with institutions working on gender and allied topics, with a focus on women, non-binary and LGBTQIA+ related content.
  • To enlist the possible ways to overcome the challenges that arise from gender gap in content creation and access on open knowledge platforms, as suggested by the stakeholders of the digital ecosystem.

Research methods edit

To obtain a nuanced understanding and in-depth insights into ongoing work in the above thematic areas, the project will adopt qualitative methods that will include archival research, semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions etc. with prominent stakeholders producing content in the arena of gender, online and offline. Under the larger theme of gender and sexuality, the study will focus on content related to two sub-themes:

  • Cultural History
  • Feminist Production and Publication

This study is conducted across four Indian languages:

  • Kannada
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Marathi

The sampling will be purposive and convenient in nature, where the sub-themes and languages chosen have been based on the researcher’s ability and comfort with the languages and familiarity on the sub-themes. Further, the possibilities of bringing this content on Wikimedia projects will also be explored. These efforts will be led by collaboration with and active participation of individuals and organizations working in the field.

Research outputs edit

The outputs of this study will comprise the following:

  • A report mapping challenges in the process of creating content related to gender and sexuality online, and potential ways to overcome them as suggested by the respondents of this study
  • Documentation of existing repositories of content on gender and sexuality, in Indian languages.
  • Potential collaborations on content donation and partnership for Wikimedia projects.

Timeline edit

  • September-October: Review of literature, and drafting and publication of project concept note. Presentation of the research idea to the team for comments and suggestions.
  • November: Identifying potential respondents and finalisation of the respondents for the study. Finalisation of interview questionnaire. Initial communication with respondents if possible.
  • December: Revision of the tools and methods if required according to the list of respondents as needed; initial round of communication/ interviews with the respondents.
  • January-February: Data Collection through archival research, focus group discussion and semi-structured interviews.
  • March: Analysis of data and the first draft of the report to be completed.
  • April-May: Circulation of the report for comments and feedback.
  • June: Revision of the report and publication of the final version.

Updates until December, 2021 edit

Until December 2021, a number of key tasks were undertaken on this project, beginning with drafting, reviewing and finalizing the research design, including the main research questions. This was followed by a selection of methods and tools for data collection, selection of respondents formulation of questionnaires for various categories of interviewees, and scheduling interviews. Interviews for the study also began and will be completed in the early part of the next year. Alongside this, there has been a continual process of reviewing literature under the following themes-
a. Gender Gap in Wikipedia
b. Digital space, feminist politics and assertion;
c. Feminist writings and content production.
Next steps include completion of fieldwork, and moving on to data analysis and writing.

A detailed update on the project can be read here

January - August 2022 edit

The first couple of months were spent on completing interviews with respondents, and drafting the first three sections (introduction, literature review and methodology) of the final report. Given the pandemic, all interviews were conducted virtually, over telephone conversations or email. Upon the completion of the interviews, analysis of the data was done and the observations were clustered into three major sections - a. Nature of the content b. Digital Space c. Indian languages. The first draft of the report was completed and shared with all the respondents for feedback. For the process of internal review, it was shared with the A2K team and a researcher at CIS as well. The report has been revised based on comments received and finalised, and is now available on Wikimedia Meta-Wiki.

This journey of this study has been very helpful in developing an understanding of processes of content production on gender, sexuality and feminism, the digital space and Indian languages. The observations from the study offer several learnings on the ramifications of social structures in the digital space, and the need for a critical outlook towards processes of content creation on gender and sexuality. It also offers insights on potential strategies to address these gaps through collaborative knowledge production platforms like Wikimedia projects. These include attention to issues of access, infrastructure and capacity-building, developing sustained efforts in documentation and pedagogy, including efforts in translation, archiving and digitisation, creating safe working environments and redressal mechanisms to foster community health, and better visibility for work by marginalised groups. The recommendations of the report may be adapted by open access platforms such as Wikimedia projects, to aid efforts in bridging the gender gap and bring in a multiplicity of perspectives to work on gender and sexuality.