THATCamp Feminisms West and #tooFEW

(Cross-posted from UC Humanities Forum)

I’m very excited to be attending THATCamp Feminisms West at Scripps College this Friday and Saturday. For those of you unfamiliar with THATCamp (The Humanities and Technology Camp), it was one of the first major “unconference” formats, in which there are no formal paper presentations and the schedule is generally decided by participants. Because the focus is on technology, these events often involve introductions to different tech tools for humanities research, productivity software, intros to coding, and so on. One can also find new media studies sessions, professionalization workshops – THATCamp is usually the best of what “Digital Humanities” can mean. The fact that this one centers around feminism is even more exciting.

THATCamp Feminisms are happening around the country this weekend. In addition to our Western version at Scripps, the East conference is taking place at Barnard College, and South is at Emory University. Because THATCamp was one of my first experiences being a conference Tweeter, I’m really excited about the possibility of having three related conversations in which to participate from afar. It’s very rewarding to expand my digital and meatspace networks with other feminists interested in technology.

One of the real highlights of this weekend, however, is the #tooFEW campaign to encourage more women and people of color to participate in Wikipedia editing. According to a UNU survey conducted in 2010, fewer than 13% of Wikipedia contributors are women, which is a huge disparity for a database of knowledge so influential and ubiquitous in the digital age. Like many other volunteer, open source projects, the self-selection of participants is due to a wide range of factors. On a systemic level, we can relate the lack of women’s voices in Wikipedia editing to their reticence in classroom and online spaces generally. Sometimes privilege is about being able to comfortably and confidently occupy social space. Familiarizing myself with Wikipedia in advance of this event, I can also say that there is a nontrivial technological barrier as well: though the scripting is minor, Wikipedia is not a WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) editor. Women and people of color historically have less exposure to tech fields, and some might feel less comfortable tackling these types of spaces. Miriam Posner has a great blog about coding cultures and access in DH communities.

Moya Bailey has organized the #tooFEW event in order to have a massive Wikipedia editing party featuring women, people of color, and those interested in increasing the visibility of underrepresented groups and topics of importance to their communities. This is also a simultaneous event, occurring 8 am -12 pm PST on March 15. For more information, see Bailey’s original blog post here, as well as her account of some of the fallout that has occurred in the wake of the event’s announcement. For those of you who can’t physically make it to a THATCamp Feminisms editing center, there will be plenty of Twitter chatter going on, plus a private chat for questions, encouragement, brainstorming and so on.

I can’t say I’m a morning person, but I will be participating with fellow THATCampers at Scripps bright and early, 8 am PST. No matter your experience, we’ll be there to learn together and make a small dent in the demographics of Wikipedia. I hope you can join us!

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