2023:Program/Equity and Community Health/X8HCJE-Decolonizing knowledge through languages: why making Wikimedia more multilingual and multimodal matters
Title: Decolonizing knowledge through languages: why making Wikimedia more multilingual and multimodal matters
We are a global campaign to center the knowledge of marginalized communities (the majority of the world) on the internet. 3/4 of the online population of the world today comes from the global South – from Asia, from Africa, from Latin America. And nearly half all women are online. Yet most public knowledge online has so far been written by white men from Europe and North America. To address this, we work particularly with women, people of color, LGBTQI communities, indigenous peoples and others from the Global South/Global Majority to build and represent more of all of our own knowledge online.
Room: Room 309
Start time: Fri, 18 Aug 2023 10:30:00 +0800
End time: Fri, 18 Aug 2023 11:00:00 +0800
Type: No (pretalx) session type id specified
Track: Equity, Inclusion, and Community Health
Submission state: confirmed
Duration: 30 minutes
Do not record: false
Presentation language: en
Abstract & description[edit source]
In spite of efforts for countering systemic bias and promoting knowledge equity on Wikipedia, we are not able to get past the predominance and hegemony of some languages over others. Language is a proxy for knowledge and an essential part of who we are. If we continue to cultivate a primarily monolingual global encyclopedia, we risk losing the richness in multiple forms of knowledge of the +7000 languages of the world. As a knowledge movement, can we afford this?
As a global movement, Wikimedia is rooted in our collective love for languages. The movement and its communities and projects are multilingual spaces and ecosystems organized around languages. It is no coincidence that Wikipedia’s user interface supports over 400 languages, and there are more than 300 Wikipedia language editions. Yet, we are not able to get past the predominance and hegemony of some languages over others. The number of articles in each language Wikipedia is dynamic, but clearly there’s a bias towards English-language content, with the English Wikipedia being the largest by far.
Language is a proxy for knowledge and an essential part of our identities and histories. Every language is a way of knowing and inhabiting the world. If we cultivate a primarily monolingual global encyclopedia, we risk losing the richness and the multiple forms of knowledge of the over 7000 languages of the world. Most significantly, language has multiple forms (i.e. oral, gestural, visual, etc.). Only about 4000 languages have written systems or scripts, many of which were developed through violent and extractive processes of colonization. When digital technologies offer us possibilities for representing the plurality of language forms, how are we re-thinking Wikipedia as a global open knowledge repository to account for non-textual forms of languages?
But language justice runs deeper than representation. The forms of digital marginalization and exclusion of most of the world’s languages on the internet and on Wikipedia are the result of historical and ongoing structures of power and privilege. By analyzing the power dynamics of knowledge production on Wikipedia, using language as a proxy, we aim at understanding whose views, whose agenda, whose epistemic ways of knowing and doing build and sustain the ways in which we create knowledge on the global encyclopedia — in our many languages.
In this session, we aim to: 1) Detail some of our current research in (online) language justice issues 2) Analyze some of the critical ways they manifest in Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects 3) Facilitate a discussion on actions to make Wikimedia projects more meaningfully multilingual and multimodal in concept, content and communication
Further details[edit source]
Qn. How does your session relate to the event themes: Diversity, Collaboration Future?
We recognize that systems of power and privilege are so hard to dismantle because they encompass multiple and interlocking forms of oppression: patriarchy, racism, colonization, homophobia, casteism (to name a few) reinforce each other. We can’t advance towards knowledge equity and justice calling out for more diversity but leaving other systems of power and privilege intact. To build a fair, just, and equitable knowledge movement, we need to factor these intersections into our ways of thinking and doing within the Wikimedia movement. In this session, we will discuss multilinguality, language multimodality, and epistemic justice on Wikipedia through an analytical lens of power and privilege, and look closely at the intersections of structural injustices that result in the digital marginalization and exclusion of most of the world’s languages on the internet and on Wikipedia. Through this process, we will showcase examples of projects and communities that have done crucial work towards language justice, such as the Xitsonga Wikipedia. This conversation (and many others Whose Knowledge? has been co-holding with various communities) is an ongoing effort to cultivate collective ways of re-imagining the future of Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects.
Qn. What is the experience level needed for the audience for your session?
Everyone can participate in this session
Qn. What is the most appropriate format for this session?