Passing On is a design experiment in using data, stories, and cooperation to change women's representation online. This app, along with Open Gender Tracker and FollowBias, forms a trio of projects that expand how we measure and change women's visibility in the media.
Media campaigns and civic apps usually make appeals to governments, publishers, or brands. Fix My Transport expects local government to fix the street. Drop the I Word pressures publishers to change their practices. Online, change happens differently. What we see on our Twitter feed or sites like Wikipedia is controlled by us. Not everyone has the time or experience (yet) to write Wikipedia articles, but anyone can answer a survey to start the journey.
Important note: this site is a concept prototype. It does not yet have all the needed parts to actually change Wikipedia.
Although gender is more complex than the male/female binary used here, our software isn't able to estimate other genders and sexualities from article content. Gender estimates are based on the gendered pronouns found within the text of articles, similar the approach used by Reagle and Rhue in their paper on gender bias in Wikipedia. A wealth of content beyond gender binaries can be found at the Wikipedia LGBT portal.
J. Nathan Matias is a grad student at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media, advised by Ethan Zuckerman. Nathan collaborates on technology and communities which empower people to become more creative, effective, and informed.
Sophie Diehl is an undergraduate at MIT studying electrical engineering, with an interest in data visualizations for social awareness. She started Passing On as a summer project in data visualization supervised, by J. Nathan Matias at the MIT Media Lab. Her visualization "Gender in Memoriam" is the precursor to this project.
Special thanks is due to Jim Vallandingham, whose bubble cloud tutorial provided the basis for this visualisation.
Wikipedia is an influential mirror on society, a means through which we understand our world. Wikipedia also has gaps that we can all work to fill. How are women faring?
Wikipedia dominates other encyclopedias like Britannica in biographical coverage, according to research by Reagle and Rhue, but more so when it comes to men. Britannica is also more balanced in who it neglects to cover.
Women and men contribute to Wikipedia in different numbers. The 2011 Wikipedia editor survey claims that 91% of editors are male, but the survey probably undercounts women. The 2011 paper WP:Clubhouse? offers a thorough exploration of women's experiences editing Wikipedia.
Want to take action? The Wikipedia community is very aware of these issues. Start here if you want to help.
Want to learn more about how women are presented in the media? Read my post on (almost) everything we know about Women, News, and the Internet or watch the film Miss Representation. If you're interested in videogames, Tropes vs Women is another great video series.
If you have any questions or want to work with us to support women's representation in the media, contact Nathan Matias at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2013 MIT Center for Civic Media.
Obituary text has been licensed from the New York Times via the Linguistic Data Consortium and is quoted in compliance with academic fair use. Special thanks to Evan Sandhaus at the New York Times for producing this corpus and for encouraging conversations during the early stages of our project.