Wikipedia:WikiProject Countering systemic bias/Project details

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Scope and goals[edit]

Thinking outside the Wikibox - User:Filiocht

For earlier discussion, see Wikipedia:CROSSBOW.

This project is primarily intended to direct more attention and effort to subject matter areas that tend to be relatively neglected due to the nature of Wikipedia and the demographics of the pool of participants.

Systemic bias[edit]

Click to view illustrative diagram

Wikipedia has a number of systemic biases, mostly deriving from the demographics of our participant base, the heavy bias towards online research, and the (generally commendable) tendency to "write what you know".

Systemic bias is not to be confused with systematic bias. The latter just means "thoroughgoing bias". Systemic bias means that there are structural reasons why Wikipedia gives certain topics much better coverage than others, and as a consequence, it should not be seen as the "fault" of any individual editor, or any individual article.

Wikipedia is an evolving project. While some of its biases — e.g. a preference for online sources — are probably inherent, others — generally the demographic ones — need not be. However, they will not be overcome by wishful thinking. We need to devote active effort to these matters, rather than keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

As of this writing, Wikipedia is disproportionately white and male; disproportionately American; disproportionately written by people from white collar backgrounds. We do not think this is a result of a conspiracy — it is largely a result of self-selection — but it has effects not all of which are beneficial, and which need to be looked at and (in some cases) countered.

Wikipedia is biased toward over-inclusion of certain material pertaining to (for example) science fiction, contemporary youth culture, contemporary U.S. and UK culture in general, and anything already well covered in the English-language portion of the Internet. These excessive inclusions are relatively harmless: at worst, people look at some of these articles and say "this is silly, why is it in an encyclopedia?"

Of far greater (and more detrimental) consequence, these same biases lead to minimal or non-existent treatment of topics of great importance. One example is that, as of this writing (October 2004), the Congo Civil War, possibly the largest war since World War II has claimed over 3 million lives, but one would be hard pressed to learn much about it from Wikipedia. In fact, there is far more information on a fictional space station.

Strategies[edit]

By their nature, systemic biases are not easily addressed. We will need a variety of strategies. The following sections lay out a set of strategies that can be pursued in parallel.

Use other existing structures of Wikipedia[edit]

Many existing Wikipedia structures have potential to help out in this effort. Among these are:

We encourage everyone to use these structures (as well as those specific to this project) to increase coverage of neglected areas.

See also section Similar WikiProjects on this page.


New structures to coordinate our efforts[edit]

We encourage suggestions of new structures to coordinate our efforts toward countering systemic bias.

We may eventually want to create new WikiProjects as part of this effort. Right now (October 2004) there appears to be consensus that this would be premature, but possibilities include:

Recruitment[edit]

As remarked above, many of the systemic biases of Wikipedia derive from the demographic of its contributor base. The only solution to this will be successful recruitment of people outside our now-dominant demographics.

  • Create an infrastructure for recruitment and support of contributors outside the present Wikipedia mainstream. For example, this could include active outreach to Historically black colleges and universities in the U.S. and to colleges and universities in various countries of the Commonwealth of Nations.
  • We need to develop a better understanding of why Wikipedia has had a relatively difficult time recruiting and retaining women and ethnic minorities. We encourage the use of the talk page of this project as a place to start such a discussion. In particular:
    • Are there aspects of Wikipedia's culture that actively discourage participation by women and ethnic minorities?
    • If so, are there additional structures that might counter these aspects of Wikipedia without compromising its strengths?
  • Find existing Wikipedians who are interested in topics that are less covered in Wikipedia. See Wikipedia:List of Wikipedians by fields of interest for a good listing.
  • Many cities worldwide have their own web page, and 'information officer'. These people can sometimes be enticed by pointing them at the article on their city, and encouraging them to correct anything that is not accurate. This is particularly useful for cities that have very little information in their articles, or whose articles have POV issues.
  • Participate in the meta:Wikimedia urban postering campaign.

Similar WikiProjects[edit]

The following existing WikiProjects may all be of relevance to this project.

WikiProject Countering systemic bias open tasks
This project creates new articles and improves neglected ones.

Categories[edit]

We have created a category scheme:

Limited geographic scope template[edit]

We have created a template to flag articles with a limited geographic scope. The template automatically adds the article the category of the same name: The template is as follows:

To use the template insert the template {{Limitedgeographicscope}} at the bottom of an article. Add an explanation of what you consider to be lacking on the Talk page of the article.

CSB voting templates[edit]

See the Nominations section of the CSB Collaboration of the Week.