Does Wikipedia Generate Knowledge?

One point that I feel the article on the Wikipedia edit-a-thon might have done well to explore more thoroughly was what kinds of sources the editors used to support their hundreds of changes. As I was reading up on Wikipedia’s involvement in Gamergate, I learned that the site has a strict policy against citing original work – even when the editor is an author fixing errors in the page about his/her own book. Thus to stay ‘live’ on the site, each of the Art+Feminism editing team’s changes and submissions would have needed a pre-existing secondary source. I have to wonder, then, how much of Wikipedia’s silence on female artists is due to a lack of authoritative writing about these artists. Since Wikipedia acts more as an aggregator of existing knowledge rather than a knowledge producer, a dearth of research in a particular topic will of course lead to a corresponding hole in the site’s coverage of that topic.

Though Mabey primarily points to a disproportionate number of female Wikipedia editors as the root of female artists’ underrepresentation on the site, she does mention that a lack of interest (and consequently, a lack of writings and research) could also be to blame, stating that “in America, anyway, we don’t really have a culture that values art, and space issues.” It seems to me then that a useful outreach of the of Edit-a-Thon might be an effort to spark interest in the arts and inspire more historians to research and write about female artists, thus generating the secondary-source knowledge that Wikipedia’s editors need in order to fill in the gaps.

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“Real Gamers” Play “Real Games”

At the end of Julia’s post, she distinguishes between the casual phone and web games that she plays and more serious “video games”. This is a great distinction to make note of, as the exclusive grouping of some games as “real” and the rest as “casual” is a driving force behind the gaming community’s often exclusionary attitude toward women.

While the casual games category is understood to contain simple, lightweight games suitable for even the least experienced of players, “hardcore” games require a greater degree of dexterity and experience. At the surface level, this appears to be a distinction purely based on complexity. In practice, though, this means that men – long understood to be the tech-savvy gender – are encouraged to play complex games, and discouraged from touching casual ones. The inverse is true, of course, for women, for whom casual games are suitable and hardcore games are not. The product, then, is a deep schism between games branded as “real” and those considered “casual”, with one gender on each side of the divide and little room for crossover.

I will say that some developers/publishers – Nintendo in particular – have made serious attempts to bridge the gap between hardcore and casual games, and consequently between hardcore and casual gamers. Games like Mario Kart, Kirby, and the Mario Sports series are intentionally designed to accommodate a wide spectrum of gaming experience. However, in my eye these attempts only serve to encourage casual gamers to play more complex games – and not the opposite. That is, even if (some) hardcore games are becoming more gender-inclusive, I’ve yet to see the same occur for casual games. For the time being, Angry Birds and Candy Crush and the like are still labelled as barely “real games”, and their players barely “real gamers.”

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