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