Happy birthday, Wikipedia! Checking in with Concordia's ACTivist editors

As the online encyclopedia celebrates 15 years, university researchers are striving to beef up its ageing studies pages
January 15, 2016
By Tom Peacock


the seventh most visited website in the world — is celebrating its 15th birthday today: January 15, 2016.

To mark the occasion, we checked in with post-doctoral researcher and Wikipedia editor Maude Gauthier. She’s finishing up her work on a project at Concordia to raise awareness of critical ageing studies on the popular online encyclopedia.

ACTipedia is just one of many initiatives taking place under the banner of Ageing, Communication, Technologies (ACT), a large, international, multi-methodological research project directed by Kim Sawchuk, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies.

The ACT team includes members from all over the globe. They’re looking at how new forms of digital communication are transforming the experience of ageing.

Overall, how's it going with the ACTipedia project?

Maude Gauthier: It is going well. We are in a more reflective phase now, compared to when we last spoke.

At the time [April, 2015], we were editing a lot. We are now archiving the current versions of the pages in a single document to keep track of our work, to which we add our reflections about this experiment in knowledge transfer. 

We also began teaching other researchers how to edit. For example, I gave one workshop this summer and there were close to 20 people in attendance from many universities. 

Have any pages related to Concordia research been posted to Wikipedia since we last spoke? If so, what are they?

MG: We create and edit pages related to the fields of ageing studies and communication. We often reference academic books and articles to support our edits and some of them are from Concordia professors and postdocs.

But we do not create pages about Concordia per se. That’s not what the project is about. [See below for a list of pages created and modified by the ACTipedia team].

A year into the project, what are the most important things you've learned?

MG: Our biggest lesson is in the pitfalls of open spaces like Wikipedia. On many occasions, we noticed that a small number of Wikipedians target pages about gender, women, feminism, sexuality or cultural minorities to try to block their entry into this space.

We notice the same usernames and the same strategies coming back from one time to the other. As soon as you talk about feminism, for example, they say it's not "noteworthy" enough or that it reads like an "opinion" and shouldn't be part of the online encyclopedia. 

How much longer are you going to be involved with the ACTipedia project?

MG: I am now working full-time on my own project, which is about something entirely different, and just following up on what we started last year. But beyond my participation, the project will continue and is likely to be taken up by new members of Kim's lab in the future.

Personally, what were you hoping to achieve?

MG: At the beginning of the project, my goals were to create text, to add ideas to Wikipedia, to make a concrete "quantitative," as much as qualitative, contribution on topics that were not or not well covered. Those are topics related to ageing studies.

There will always be room for improvement because as a "wiki", this online encyclopedia is always in transformation, but I have achieved my initial goals. Even though a few changes failed (were reverted or rejected), there was still a great number that succeeded.

Ageing studies on Wikipedia

A comprehensive list of entries created and modified by the ACTipedia research team.



Changes made to existing entries



Learn more about the Ageing, Communication and Technologies research project at Concordia, or take the Libraries Wikipedia workshop on how to edit and create pages.



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