Lecen on systemic bias in featured content
The Empire of Brazil (emblem on left)
was a 19th-century state that broadly comprised the territories which form modern Brazil. It was ruled for most of its existence by Emperor Dom Pedro II (right)
. This week, the Signpost
, the writer of these two featured articles and several others.
This week, The Signpost begins a six-part series of interviews with editors who combat systemic bias – bias that naturally grows from the demographic groups of the encyclopaedia's contributors. The assumption here is that the uneven demographics show up in an imbalanced coverage of topics in featured content. For our inaugural report, we interviewed Lecen, who has written nine featured articles relating to Brazil and Portugal, including Empire of Brazil, Pedro Álvares Cabral, and the new featured article Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, Duke of Caxias.
On his interest in Brazil and Portugal, as well as how they compare to topics from the Anglosphere. "The almost predominant existence of stubs was a factor, but the main reason was when I realized the true potential of the English-language Wikipedia. If Latin was once the lingua franca, nowadays this role is played by English. Writing articles for the Portuguese-language Wikipedia would severely limit the flow of information. But writing articles in English? Any person, anywhere, could easily translate articles from English to their own native languages. And that was precisely what happened. The featured article I wrote about Emperor Pedro II of Brazil has been translated into French, Spanish , Italian and even Romanian! This inter-language spreading of knowledge is one of the most admirable and fantastic traits of Wikipedia."
"Brazil has been increasingly prominent in the international arena in the past few years, mainly due to its economic power and territorial size. Unfortunately, the interest in Brazil on Wikipedia has not become remarkable yet. How many editors have been working on Brazil-related articles? They could fit in a Volkswagen Beetle. There is too much to be done."
This inter-language spreading of knowledge is one of the most admirable and fantastic traits of Wikipedia
On the challenges and special considerations/prejudices faced. "The lack of support is what bothers me the most. Ask someone to help review an article related to the American Civil War and you'll see at least a dozen editors sharing their views. Now try to do the same with a Brazil-related article. Time passes and, if one or two editors appear, you could say that the day was worth it."
"Did I find any difficulty? Of course. I successfully nominated nine articles to become featured. All are somehow tied to the histories of Brazil and Portugal. I can affirm that in 95% of cases, I had excellent relations with the reviewers, who helped me by giving their counsels and even criticisms, which allowed me to improve those articles a lot. The remaining 5% of reviewers involved only two or three editors; few, it's true, but enough to weaken anyone's will to persist writing."
Suggestions for editors interested in combating systemic bias. "When possible, use books in English as the main source and fill the empty spaces with information taken of books written in the native tongue. In Pedro II of Brazil, I based my work almost completely on the excellent Citizen Emperor: Pedro II and the Making of Brazil, 1825–1891 by Roderick J. Barman. I used dozens of other sources, but at least someone who does not speak Portuguese can verify the information given."
If the English Wikipedia wants to become an encyclopedia ahead of its time, it must get rid of its own prejudices and become what it truly should be—universal.
"Now, speaking of cultural differences is far harder. I sincerely believe that Wikipedia should be bold and, as a basic rule, keep the names of foreign monarchs (but only the ones from Western cultures) in their original form. What is the problem on reading an article about Nikolay II of Russia, or Wilhelm I of Germany or Fernando VI of Spain? We have a William I, German Emperor and Wilhelm II, German Emperor! It's unnecessarily confusing! There is also nothing weirder than reading about Dmitry Bogrov and Pyotr Stolypin and bumping into ... Czar Nicholas II of Russia. What is that? A British monarch among Russians? As I mentioned earlier, I'm referring only to Western cultures, since most use the roman alphabet. If the English Wikipedia wants to become an encyclopedia ahead of its time, it must get rid of its own prejudices and become what it truly should be—universal."
Garrett Hobart, US vice-president and subject of a new featured article
Life recreation of Plateosaurus gracilis
, a species of the subject of a new featured article, Plateosaurus
The border between the US and Mexico at San Diego – Tijuana. This new featured picture is from the US Army.
A Ruffe in the Pärnu River of Estonia, a new featured picture
The National Library of Bulgaria, a new featured picture
Seven featured articles were promoted this week:
- Faryl Smith (nom) by J Milburn. Smith, a British mezzo-soprano who was born on 23 July 1995, rose to fame after participating in the 2008 run of Britain's Got Talent. Despite finishing outside the top three, she signed a contract with Universal Classics and Jazz and released her debut album, Faryl, in March 2009; the album became the fastest-selling solo classical album in British chart history. This was followed in November 2009 by her second album, Wonderland. Smith, who attends Southfield School for Girls, has also been active in charity and live performances.
- Stanley Holloway (nom) by Cassianto. English stage and film actor, comedian, singer, poet and monologist Stanley Holloway was born in London on 1 October 1890. After a period as a clerk, he stage acted for a brief period of time before becoming an infantryman in the First World War. In 1919, after the end of the war, he found success with Kissing Time; by the 1930s he had become a major star. During World War II, Holloway made several short propaganda films and played in more war films. He later found international success with several incarnations of My Fair Lady. Holloway died on 30 January 1982 of a stroke.
- 1st Provisional Marine Brigade (nom) by Ed!. The 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, an ad hoc Marine infantry brigade of the United States Marine Corps, was activated five times between 1912 to 1950. It was first formed to fight in the 1912 Cuban revolution, then deactivated; this deactivation lasted 29 years. After the US entered World War II, the brigade was constructed from the 6th Marine Regiment to garrison Iceland, with another activation to conduct an amphibious landing of Guam. After the war, the brigade participated in an organizational shift, then was activated briefly in 1950 to participate in the Korean War.
- Garret Hobart (nom) by Wehwalt. Garret Hobart, born in Long Branch, New Jersey, on 3 June 1844, was a lawyer and later vice president of the United States under William McKinley. Joining the law office of Socrates Tuttle after graduating from Rutgers College, Hobart went on to marry Tuttle's daughter Jennie. During the 1896 Republican National Convention, a group of New Jersey delegates pushed for Hobart to run as vice-president; after he was nominated, he proved to be a popular figure and adviser to McKinley until Hobart's death on 21 November 1899.
- White-necked Rockfowl (nom) by Rufous-crowned Sparrow. The White-necked Rockfowl, which measures 38 to 41 cm (15 to 16 in) in length, is a mainly insectivorous bird species found along the Guinean coast of Africa. The Rockfowl is monogamous and nests in mud formed into a deep cup; it lays an average of four eggs yearly. As the birds rarely fly long distances – they mainly travel by hopping and short flights – Rockfowl colonies are generally isolated from each other. The species is currently considered Vulnerable, threatened by habitat destruction.
- Luís Alves de Lima e Silva, Duke of Caxias (nom) by Lecen and Astynax. Caxias, born 25 August 1803, was a Brazilian army officer, politician and monarchist. After becoming a junior officer in the country's war for independence in 1823, in 1825 Caxias was relocated to Cisplatina and tried unsuccessfully to stop it from seceding. Throughout the reigns of Pedro I and Pedro II he remained a loyalist, and in 1856 he was chosen to be president of Council of Ministers. By 1861, Caxias was Marshal of the Army and leader of the Conservative Party; he died on 7 May 1880 after years of failing health.
- Plateosaurus (nom) by HMallison. Plateosaurus, a genus of plateosaurid dinosaurs from the Late Triassic period (around 214 to 204 million years ago), was an early bipedal herbivorous sauropodomorph from what is now Central and Northern Europe. The genus, divided into two species, was discovered in 1834 by Johann Friedrich Engelhardt and described three years later by Hermann von Meyer; it is the fifth discovered genus that is still considered valid. Among the dinosaurs best known to science, in the past several decades it has been completely restudied, leading to new interpretations of its biology, posture and behaviour.
Ten featured pictures were promoted this week:
- Ruffe (nom; related article), created by Tiit Hunt and nominated by J Milburn. The Eurasian Ruffe is a freshwater fish found in temperate regions of Europe and northern Asia, with populations also introduced to the Great Lakes in North America. This new featured image was taken in the Pärnu River in Estonia.
- The fluorine economy (nom; related article), created by Fallschirmjäger and nominated by TCO. The new featured picture, a clickable graph, depicts a simplified version of the economy fed by fluorite, using 2003 data. In 2003, fluorite mining alone was a $550 million industry. Fluorite, the raw mineral, has many applications, including the production of Teflon and Freon, while the pure form, fluorine, is used for refining uranium.
- Jeremy Doyle (nom; related article), created by Sport the Library and nominated by Crisco 1492. The new featured picture, a donation from the Australian Paralympic committee, shows gold medalist Jeremy Doyle. Although Doyle, who became a paraplegic at the age of four after a car accident, was best known for playing wheelchair basketball, he also played wheelchair hockey and represented his country in Counter-Strike at the World Cyber Games twice.
- Panoramic view of the Colosseum (nom; related article) by Paolostefano1412. The subject of this featured picture, the Colosseum, was the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman empire. Constructed in c. 70–80 A.D., the Colosseum was capable of seating 50,000 spectators and was used for everything from dramas to mock sea battles. Although in a semi-ruined state, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Rome.
- Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir (nom; related article), created by KennyOMG and nominated by Katarighe. The city of Srinagar, of which this new featured picture provides a panoramic view, is the summer seasonal capital of Jammu and Kashmir and one of the largest cities in India not to have a Hindu majority. The city's name is derived from the Sanskrit words śrī (venerable) and nagar (city).
- Cholaralkali membrane process (nom; related article), created by Jkwchui and nominated by TCO. The new featured picture, a diagram of the membrane cell process for the electrolysis of sodium chloride solution, shows how the membrane cell works. The most common chlorlakali process, the membrane cell uses a multi-stage process to convert brine into chlorate.
- Netherlandish Proverbs (nom; related article), created by Pieter Bruegel the Elder and nominated by Crisco 1492. Netherlandish Proverbs, a 1559 painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, shows literally-interpreted visualizations of contemporary Dutch proverbs. This includes choice bits such as "To be a pillar-biter" ("To be a religious hypocrite") and "To marry under the broomstick" ("To live together without marrying").
- US–Mexico border (nom; related article), created by Gordon Hyde and nominated by ComputerJA. This new featured picture, by a Sergeant First Class of the US army, depicts the contrast in population densities at the border between the US city of San Diego and the Mexican city Tijuana. The San Diego side is far sparser.
- National Library of Bulgaria (nom; related article) by MrPanyGoff. The Saints Cyril and Methodius National Library, the national library of Bulgaria, is in the city of Sofia and was built in 1878. According to photographer MrPanyGoff, the image was taken in winter to ensure that the greatest possible amount of the facade would be visible, with the early-morning shooting session to avoid crowds.
- Thomas Cranmer (nom; related article), created by Gerlach Flicke and nominated by Crisco 1492. This new featured picture, a portrait of English Reformation leader and Archbishop of Canterbury Thomas Cranmer, was originally painted in 1545. Cranmer, born in 1489, established the first doctrinal and liturgical structures of the reformed Church of England and developed new doctrinal standards. He was executed in 1556 for heresy by the Roman Catholic queen Mary I.
Pieter Bruegel's 1559 painting Netherlandish Proverbs
, which depicts 100 literal interpretations of contemporary Dutch proverbs. The painting is a new featured picture.
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