Wikipedia and (self-)promotion
I watched Jimmy Wales being interviewed on Newsnight last night. They are aiming to increase the diversity of their contributors, on gender and other dimensions. He said that only 9-14% of the contributors to Wikipedia are women.I found this figure surprisingly low, and wondered what the reasons for it might be. The most likely seems to me to be to do with self-confidence: women are less likely to consider themselves authoritative enough to provide an entry, or to correct others’ entries – even though there is no entry barrier to contributing, as far as I know.
A few days ago I interviewed Ann Oakley. She referred to a book by Jean Baker Miller, written in the seventies, Towards a New Psychology of Women. It had a chapter called ‘Doing good and feeling bad ’, which Ann said had influenced her. Women are brought up to think of themselves as serving others, whereas men think of themselves as autonomous beings with their own individual pathway. We talked about how men and women do or don’t put themselves forward, and it occurred to me that ‘self-promotion’ has a dual sense: putting oneself forward, generally, into the public eye; and (thus) securing an actual promotion. But this doesn’t explain the Wikipedia absence, since there is no personal promotion – exactly the reverse.
I like the Wikipedia image/logo, with its jigsaw pieces . Jimmy Wales said that of course it was a work in progress, and would always be so. I hope the collective assembly of the jigsaw, without hierarchy, can be maintained, even when there are so many attempts to manipulate the authority of knowledge.