Research:Wikipedia and the Nation's Story: Towards equity in knowledge production
This page documents a research project in progress.
Information may be incomplete and change as the project progresses.
Please contact the project lead before formally citing or reusing results from this page.
Wikipedia and the Nation's Story: Towards equity in knowledge production aims to reshape how history is made on Wikipedia.
Wikipedia is one of the most popular websites in the world and the de facto global reference of knowledge about people, places, events and things. Although Wikipedia’s scope and authorship are larger than any previous encyclopedia, it nonetheless suffers from significant omissions and misrepresentations. Research on Wikipedia’s systemic biases has grown over the past decade, but scholars have not yet systematically addressed either the ways partiality is produced or the platform’s approach to historic events. This project aims to address these two gaps, by critically evaluating Wikipedia’s representation of historic events in Australia. Bringing together experts on Wikipedia politics and public history, the project will map and evaluate Wikipedia’s blind spots in annual Report Cards. Focusing on practices and procedures, it will advance a new conceptual framework for understanding digital knowledge platforms and their inequalities and produce a new analysis of one of the world’s most powerful knowledge platforms at a time when the impacts of media technologies on public values of trust, accuracy and diversity are more apparent than ever.
This project will enable the first systematic study of the practices through which Wikipedia produces accounts of the events that shape our national stories, using Australia as a focal point. The contested nature of Australian history makes it an excellent case study and some ground-breaking work has been already opened up the field. In 2013, Townsend, Osmond and Phillips found that Wikipedia’s biographies of cricketers represented a disproportionately large group that did not accurately represent the diversity of Australian sport history. Expanding from this, in a project on the history of the Australian Paralympic Movement, Phillips (2016) demonstrated that Wikipedia can be important to history-making by generating digital forms of public knowledge that complements traditional print publications. Avieson (2019) investigated the case of the 2014 Sydney hostage crisis to explore ways in which Wikipedia is changing perceptions of the news. However, there has not yet been a systematic study of how Wikipedia represents historic Australian events, nor one that brings together cutting-edge research approaches on Wikipedia’s systemic bias and its increasingly important role in national history-making. The aim of this project, therefore, is to institute a new critical approach to understanding Wikipedia and its modes of knowledge production.
Objective 1: Understand how Wikipedia’s partiality has been framed and evaluated.
Objective 2: Map the scope of entries relating to Australian historic events on Wikipedia in order to analyse who and what is systematically omitted.
Objective 3: Investigate how Wikipedia’s representations are constructed through practice.
Objective 4: Develop an international consortium of researchers working to investigate the source of Wikipedia’s inequitable representations around the world.
This project is supported by Australian Research Council Grant DP220100662, ‘Wikipedia and the Nation’s Story: Towards Equity in Knowledge Production’.