Two wrongs don’t make an Enright: Editing Wikipedia

During the #editwikilit session, UCC’s M.A. students were tasked with adding to, cleaning up or generally improving literary articles on Wikipedia. The scope of what was being covered was rather vast with disciplines as diverse as Medieval English, contemporary Irish literature and everything in between. Some of my peers covered specific author’s pages and focused on filling in gaps while others added context to vague half entries.

As a student of the Irish Literature Masters, I decided to increase the database on the author Anne Enright. When researching an area to improve upon, I had assumed such a critically acclaimed author would already be well covered. I settled upon creating more blue links from her bibliography as the fact her books did not have individual pages was surprising to me. Thus I set about turning this…

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The dreaded red link of non-existence.

into this!

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The reassuring blue link of existence.

The thought of editing Wikipedia was a frightening one for my comrades and I as visions of coding and technical jargon danced through our heads. However, the intuitive user interface and guidance of computer wizard Donna Alexander meant that we all arrived unscathed and with a few more entries into the global information depository.

While live tweeting the event it was fascinating to view the array of literature being covered. Social media offers another avenue to connect with authors and scholars in what may often be niche fields, thus breaking another wall hindering the furthering of academic research. If an author of a text sends you their work directly, the dreaded paywall evaporates! The discussions and areas of research the #editwikilit started has left me a lot of new areas to explore personally.

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Live tweeting allowed for discussions of literature and helped investigate areas for further enhancement.

Upon reflection, it shouldn’t have come as surprising that many authors’ pages remain somewhat desolate. If masters students aren’t going to contribute to literary pages then who will? I had always taken for granted that pixies filled in various Wikipedia entries and corrected and updated everything from Star Trek episode guides to quantum mechanics.

Creating the page for The Green Road over other books in Enright’s repertoire was a choice based on research for my thesis as well as personal preference for a marvellous book. I often view an entity having a Wikipedia page as an anecdotal measure of how much the general populous cares about something. In an age where the arts are under threat from defunding and belittling of significance, it is imperative for those of us either as academics or fans of literature to keep the shelf of knowledge well stacked.

As an undergraduate in the mesolithic period sometime in 2007, I was warned repeatedly by lecturers not to cite or use Wikipedia as a source. “Anyone can add anything” was the forewarning chant. Well, we too are “anyone”. Wikipedia is used by nearly every student on Earth with internet access be they primary, secondary or tertiary and while a Wiki entry shouldn’t be cited in an essay, it certainly is extraordinarily useful for finding the sources you do use.

Sitting in a room with approximately two dozen other students’ of the arts working together to improve the world’s free to use literary resource was eye-opening. It was in microcosm an example of Wikipedia at its best; a community of passionate people working towards the advancement of their field of interest.

Works Cited

Enright, Anne. The Green Road. Vintage Press, 2016.

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Author: Daniel Lynch

Irish Literature & Film MA student.

6 thoughts on “Two wrongs don’t make an Enright: Editing Wikipedia”

  1. I was both entertained and enlightened by this post! I was delighted to see that Donna was leading an editathon, and it’s really fantastic to think of students from our programme making such useful contributions – because you’re right *everyone* checks Wikipedia – even lecturers, when they’re looking for information on an unfamiliar topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely agree. We all warn students away from it, but Wikipedia can be a really useful starting point for research. This is a really compelling account of how students can contribute in very useful ways to the production of knowledge.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good stuff! I’ve just read the page you wrote, and am sure it will be a useful resource for years to come. By the way, I wanted to follow up on a reference I gave you in our last class. As I said, the project you’re planning covers similar ground to that of Victoria Connor, though her work covers writers from earlier periods than the ones you want to study. Still, her writing might at least offer a demonstration of how to approach the subject of industrial schools in literature. Here’s the reference and a link to the article:

      Victoria Connor, ‘Rewriting the Past: Gerard Mannix Flynn’s ‘Nothing to Say’ and ‘James X”, Review of Irish Studies in Europe, 1.1 (2016), available online at http://risejournal.eu/index.php/rise/article/view/1264/1018

      You should be able to access this for free online: let me know if you have any problems with it, and I’ll email you a copy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much! Very useful resource, it’s always great to see examples of someone working in similar areas.

        Like

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