Crossbow [Systemic Bias in Wikipedia]

Examples of systemic bias:

  • Because so many Wikipedians do their research on line, topics not already well covered on the Internet tend to be under-covered in Wikipedia.

  • Because so many English-language Wikipedians live in a very small number of countries, topics pertaining strongly to those countries are disproportionately covered.

  • Because so many Wikipedians are interested in technology, technological topics are disproportionately well covered. Ditto science fiction. Ditto libertarianism. Conversely, and presumably for parallel reasons, there is very little on (as Xed points out) contemporary events in Africa or (as I’d point out) even on African-American history or Native American history: most of our articles on Native Americans are written from an anthropologist’s point of view, whereas our articles on (for example) punk rock or grunge rock or the science fiction fandom are consistently written with insider’s knowledge.

This list is, at best, illustrative. I do think we would do well to look at the systematic biases in the Wikipedia. I think some of them can be covered by adding to the efforts at translation from other languages. Others really would require recruitment to correct, and that recruitment may depend in part on a positive community decision that the recruitment is importans, accompanied by a long, hard look at what aspects of our internal culture are not seen as welcoming by certain groups. Wikipedia is disproportionately white and male, and I don’t think that is good. —Crossbow [Systemic Bias in Wikipedia] (Wikipedia)

Wikipedia is an online, community-authored encyclopedia. Some members of the community are attempting to address the inherent bias that arises from the demographics of those people who have the time and expertise to volunteer to write articles in a collaborative hypertext environment.

Link via Clancy, who is pondering an abmitious effort to update Wikipedia’s materials on scholarly research methods.