Wikimedia Conference 2018/Program/38

38. Exploring privilege through autobiographies edit


Dana McCurdy (Wikimedia Foundation)

Length (min)


Audience / Target group

Anyone who creates programs, events, or policies

Session Format



This session will engage participants in a conversation about the factors that make up our identity. Each aspect of our identity brings with it a level of privilege or marginalization and this, in turn, shapes our point of view on the world. Participants will explore their own identity and perspective by writing a mini-autobiography. The group will also discuss how this process can help to design better programs, events, and policies in support of diversity and equity. Participants will receive a worksheet and guide on how use this process back at their own organizations.

Brief agenda:

  • Defining identity, self-reflection and discussion (20 min)
  • Framework for and example autobiographies (15 min)
  • Participants begin their own autobiography (15 min)
  • Sharing and Group Discussion (10 min)
Desired Outcome

Participants will understand why it is important to talk about identity and privilege within the Wikimedia movement. Participants will learn how to write mini-autobiographies about privilege and how to use them to improve our efforts toward diversity and knowledge equity.

Next Steps and Milestones

I will compile ideas and feedback from the session on why this work is important to the Wikimedia Movement and share via Blog post. I will also post the slides, a worksheet, and a tutorial on how to write autobiographies on Meta so that teams can engage in this work after the conference


Dana started with brainstorming questions:

  • What is the impact of race/ethnicity on your life, from 0 to 100%?
  • What is the impact of gender on your life, from 0-100%?
  • What is the impact of your native language on your life, from 0-100%?

What is Privilege?

  • It is responding with anything less that 100%
  • Privilege is an "invisible package of unearned assets" - Peggy McIntosh
  • Everybody has a combination of unearned advantage and unearned disadvantage

Identity Self-Reflection Handout (Workshop session)

  • Describe where you see yourself on these axes.
  • In which ways do you identify with the top half of the diagram?
  • In which ways do you identify with the lower half of the diagram?

Question: What are racial autobiographies? It's a tool for developing and deepening personal understanding of and insights about race. Equity is not just an outcome; it is also about a liberating process of working together.

Stories from our movement: Video (Anasuya Sengupta and Siko Bouterse (Whose Knowledge?))

Next steps of the workshop: Confidential pairing discussion; Writing Your Autobiography

What do you recall about your first encounter with or understanding about race, ethnicity, skin color, gender, nationality, sexuality, language, wealth, or ability?
What was your most recent personal experience in dealing with race, ethnicity, skin color, gender, nationality, sexuality, language, wealth, or ability?


  • What came up for you as you started to write your own story?
Some people think that it is difficult to write about themselves
Some people wrote about their childhood experiences.
Having the conference in Berlin and all people speak in English mean Privilege
It is about inequality
  • What does it mean for someone who is from ‘developing country’?
Gender gap —> sometimes organisers are privileged people —> How do you create empathy?
Easy to Fail into Tokenism

It is important to understand our biases (How we write/How we edit/Curating knowledge) —>It can feel alienated to be an editor —> no space for reflection

How do you envision using this tool in your own work?

Why is this important for us to do as Wikimedians?