College of Staten Island Professor of Media Culture Michael Mandiberg started Art+Feminism with partners Siân Evans, Jacqueline Mabey, and Laurel Ptak, in 2014, and the project recently earned a Wikimedian of the Year award from Wikipedia, in a brand-new category called Wikipedia Affiliate Spotlight.
First established in 2011, the Wikimedian of the Year awards honor contributors to Wikimedia projects that highlight major achievements within the Wikimedia movement. The Affiliate Spotlight Award, established just this year, is the first that recognized organized groups of editors, called Affiliates, who create articles and pages on Wikipedia. Art+Feminism is an annual, ongoing, worldwide edit-a-thon to add content to Wikipedia about female artists.
“The idea came from two separate conversations that happened on the same day: Siân Evans and Jacqueline Mabey had a conversation about trying to create an event around art and feminism, and Jacqueline mentioned this to me because I had been teaching my CUNY students to edit Wikipedia for a while,” Mandiberg said when asked how the initiative started. “That same day I had a similar conversation with curator Laurel Ptak, who was doing work on cyberfeminism, and I had suggested Laurel might consider holding an edit-a-thon focused on art, technology, and feminism. It was clear we had to do something. “
The “something” that Mandiberg is referring to was more than just creating a voice for feminism and art, but also respond to a very public debate about structural sexism on Wikipedia.
“Editors were removing women from the “American Novelists” category and moving them into a subcategory for “American Women Novelists.” One of these authors wrote an op-ed about this situation, which prompted a huge amount of discussion on social media,” Mandiberg explained. “Simultaneously, Wikipedians were engaged in their own discussion on Wikipedia about what to do about this practice of subcategorization. These discussions were worlds apart and we wanted to bring them together. To do that, we knew we needed to teach people how to work on Wikipedia so they could contribute to the conversation directly on Wikipedia.”
Establishing the creative environment to take on this endeavor is one thing, but Art+Feminism has developed into a tremendous project, contributing to over 100,000 Wikipedia articles produced by nearly 18,000 contributors in locations all over the world. In addition, Art+Feminism has raised over $1M in support of the project.
“When we held the first event in 2014, we thought we would have to guilt trip a dozen of our friends to show up to help us edit. In fact, we ran out of chairs,” Mandiberg said. “We thought it was important, but were really amazed by the number of other people who agreed enough to dedicate their time to this work.”
Prof. Mandiberg had stepped away earlier this year from their leadership role at Art+Feminism, saying “We had always felt that success for the project included us making space for others to lead,” but they are proud of the work that Art+Feminism has been able to establish and the recognition it has received, including the Wikimedian of the Year honor.
“In some ways, I am most proud of the fact that the Wikimedian of the Year Affiliate award exists at all,” they stated. “When we began this work, the community exclusively valorized a few individual editors who created lots of articles by themselves. Art+Feminism of course has been dedicated to building a community of lots of people who come together to create a few pages. This year was the first year they recognized groups of editors and organizers, which Wikimedia calls Affiliates. They created this award because we showed the importance of that community organizing work. For me, it is a marker of the ways we have changed the community.”
Despite stepping away from playing a lead role in the group, Mandiberg is building on their experiences with Art+Feminism as a driver for future projects.
“I am in the process of analyzing the changes in Wikipedia’s gender gap over time,” they said on their new project. “While this work isn’t formally associated with Art+Feminism, it is an effort to measure the project’s impact. I’m looking forward to seeing what has changed, and how it has changed, and learning where the work remains to be done.”
To find out more about the Wikimedian of the Year awards visit their Webpage.
Find out more about Art+Feminism on their Wikipedia Page.