Virginia Woolf’s thoughts on fiction

Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so lightly perhaps, but still attached to life at all four corners. – Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Chapter 3 (1929)

 

Fiction, like a delicate spider’s web is so light and impalpable, but it yet needs to anchor to reality to be perceptible. Some webs seem to float in air by itself, and it is barely possible to perceive where exactly the web is attached to when the fiction stands very close to life. The existence of the web becomes obvious when it floats gently in the air, its attachments clearer when we attempt to trace the points where the fragile silks meet.

To be able to create a web requires the craftsmanship of a spider. The works of writers like Virginia Woolf make us believe that their webs hang in mid-air. The webs of expression created by Virginia prove to have existence without materialistic attachment. Her effortless prose conveys the deeper meanings of life, even without the very mention of anything human. She draws images in air, and talks in metaphors. Her narrative is highly symbolic and imaginative, written chiefly in verse. Her command in language and futuristic feminist concepts makes her my favorite writer of the twentieth century.

This analysis of Virginia Woolf’s quote was written for Terra Curanda in March 2014. 

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Women at Wikimania 2013

Wikimania 2013, the annual conference of the Wikimedia movement, had the participation of more than 60 women. As of July 30, women accounted 20 percent of online registrations for Wikimania 2013. There was a separate track for ‘Women in Wikimedia’ on Day 2 of the conference. Around 40 women participated in WikiWomen’s Luncheon which happened on the same day.

Organizing team

The Program Committee  of 11 comprised of two women, Katie Filbert and Sarah Stierch. Ellie Young facilitated and supported the organizing team in her capacity as the conference co-ordinator of Wikimedia Foundation. Katie Chan was a member of the scholarship committee of Wikimania 2013.

Keynote by Sue Gardner

The keynote on the final day of the conference was delivered by Sue Gardner, the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation. In response to a question from the press, she replied : “I wish we had solved the (gender gap) problem (in Wikimedia), but we didn’t.”

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WikiWomen’s Lunch during Wikimania-2013. Sue Gardner,CC-BY-SA.

Wikiwomen’s Luncheon

Wikiwomen’s Luncheon , the luncheon for women attendees of Wikimania 2013, was held on the second day of the conference. Around 40 women participated in the luncheon. Conversation was facilitated by Sue Gardner. Sue told that the participation in the Wikiwomen’s Lunch has rose from 11 in Taipei, 2011 to more than 100 in Washington D.C, 2012.  Gardner observed that when Wikimedia’s editor community is dominated by educated males, and expansion is by word-of-mouth, it will not “naturally grow to be as diverse as it otherwise could have been.”Sarah Stierch, the Program Evaluation Community Coordinator for the Wikimedia Foundation, shared her experiences about volunteering with the Wikimedia Foundation. Staff members of Wikimedia Deucheland passed information and distributed flyers of their upcoming Diversity Conference , which is scheduled to take place in Berlin in November.

Women speakers

Sue Gardner at Wikimedia 2013. By Lvova [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Talks, panels, pre-conference events and workshops by women speakers were:

  1. Open Street Map Workshop (Katie Filbert)
  2. Women and non-conventional education – a study from Indian cultural context  (Kavya Manohar)
  3. Growing the Arabic Wikipedia through the Wikipedia Education Program  (LiAnna Davis)
  4. Encouraging the creation and development of articles about women in Ibero-America (Ivana Lysholm)
  5. The coolest projects of Wikimedia Chapters – be inspired (Nicole Ebber; together with Lodewijk Gelauff)
  6. Idea Lab Brainstorm (Siko Bouterse & Heather Walls)
  7. Dev Camp (Sumana Harihareswara and others)
  8. Promoting diversity in the German Wikipedia (Ilona Buchem)
  9. Towards bridging the gender gap in Indian Wikimedia Community (Jadine Lannon & Netha Hussain)
  10. Bridging the gender gap with women scientists (Emily Temple Wood)

Women participants in panel discussions were :

  1. Carmen Alcázar and Monica Mora in Wiki Loves Monuments
  2. Sumana Harihareswara in Transparency and Collaboration in Wikimedia Engineering

(This is an incomplete list. If you know a woman speaker at Wikimania 2013, feel free to tell me to add her name here)

Press

1. “Wikipedia fails to bridge gender gap (South China Morning Post, 11 August 2013) by Keira Huang

2. “Women contributors still face hurdles at Wikipedia (The Wall Street Journal, 19 August 2013) by Riva Gold

Ladies, let’s contribute to Wikipedia!

This post first appeared on Forbes website and Women 2.0 website in August 2012.

There is nothing else that changed my life like Wikipedia. It is not just that I “edit” Wikipedia, but I also “celebrate” it.
Editing Wikipedia is a rewarding experience as it helps me gain a new perspective of things. It is also exciting to be able to share the bit of knowledge I know with the millions of knowledge seekers from around the world.

Women and Wikipedia

Like most other tech-related organizations, Wikipedia too cannot boast of high female participation. A recent research points out that only 9% of the editors of English Wikipedia are women.
Wikipedia is sensitive to the gender gap issue and is on its way to close it. The Wikimedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25% by 2015. A WikiWomanCamp was organized this year at Buenos Aires, Argentina for the wiki-women to interact with each other, share their experiences and discuss about gender gap and related issues.

Why so few women edit?

At the WikiWomenCamp, it was pointed out by participants that women do not contribute to Wikipedia because of various socio-cultural factors. Women are traditionally assigned the responsibility of housekeeping and childrearing, which leaves them with very little time to spend for volunteering activities. Women often suffer from lack of confidence and insecurity, which makes them think that those around them are better performers than them.
Women are not clear on why and how to get involved. The specific jargon used in Wikiprojects makes some new users uncomfortable and they eventually quit editing.
There should be a deep cultural change in the tech field to value women’s contributions and make their contributions more visible to the outer world.Sue Gardener, the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation says, “Deliberately focus efforts on recruiting women. Don’t assume that general outreach efforts will motivate women. Encourage women to recruit other women”.

We edit! CC-BY-SA.

 

Why should women edit Wikipedia?

Diversity of opinion is the essence of any encyclopedia. It is important that all articles are written from a neutral point of view, and having equal representation of women editors would increase neutrality and reduce bias. Women scientists, thinkers and those women who excel in traditionally male dominated fields are given lesser biographical coverage on Wikipedia than men involved in these fields.Having more women volunteers will help reduce this skewed coverage and increase the quality of the content of Wikipedia articles.

Getting involved: You too can write on Wikipedia

Anybody can edit Wikipedia. You don’t have to be an expert in the subject to be able to edit any article. You do not have to learn any computer language to be able to edit Wikipedia. If you are interested in any specific subjects, you could join the Wikiproject for the topic to collaborate with editors of similar interests and keep updated about the latest news in the subject. There are mailing lists for many aspects of wiki-editing, including the Gendergap mailing list for increasing the participation of women in Wikiprojects. Most regional languages have Wikipedias of their own, so if you are not comfortable with contributing in English, you could contribute to the language Wikipedia of your choice.
If you have photographs of educational value, you could upload them to Wikimedia Commons to permit their usage in Wikipedia articles. Wikipedia has sister projects like WikinewsWiktionaryWikibooksWikiquote etc. which also work like Wikipedia.

For more details on how to edit Wikipedia, see this Wikipedia page or contact me!

Wikipedia: Towards closing the gender gap

This blog post was first published on Huffington Post U.K. For my Wikimania proposal with a similar title, click here.

Most of us know Wikipedia as the free online encyclopedia, written collaboratively by millions of volunteers from around the world. I am one of those writers for the last 3 years. It was by writing articles about medical sciences that I started contributing to Wikipedia. Later, I was intrigued by the enormous volume of information available on Wikipedia, and was curious to find out who actually write them – which made me delve into the editor demographics. It really made me upset when I figured out that only around 9% of the contributors to Wikipedia are women. In fact, I knew that so few women write on Wikipedia, but I hadn’t expected the figure to be as low as 9 percent.

Diversity of opinion is the essence of any encyclopedia. Having equal representation from women will bring in wider perspectives, and increase the neutrality of the articles on Wikipedia. With men creating most of the content for Wikipedia, certain subjects might be covered more than a subject that may be of interest to women. Women not writing on Wikipedia mean that certain subjects may not be receiving the attention they rightfully deserve.

CC-BY-SA. User: Jaluj. Wikimedia Commons

The Wikimedia Foundation, the not-for-profit organization that hosts Wikipedia, had recognized this problem sooner than I did. The Wikimedia Foundation has launched various programs to bridge the gender gap, and the latest addition to the list is the WikiWomen’s Collaborative.

The WikiWomen’s Collaborative was created in September 2012 by women around the world who edit Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects, and want to encourage others to do the same. The project was aimed at helping women and transwomen to support one another and engage in programs that help the Wikimedian community to bring in new women editors. A variety of events, like edit-a-thons, interviews and wikiwomen parties were conducted as a part of the collaborative.

In May 2012, a WikiWomenCamp was organized for women in the Wikimedia movement to get together and discuss about the various issues related to being women involved in the Wikimedia community with like-minded women. Over 20 women from different countries participated in the camp to brainstorm solutions for existing problems that concern women, and suggest future plans to collaborate with one another. It is customary to conduct a WikiWomen’s luncheon at Wikimania, the global gathering of Wikimedians, exclusively for the women participants.

Organizations like the Ada Initiative, named for the world’s first programmer Countess Ada Lovelace, support women working with open knowledge projects like Wikipedia by creating resources for women in open stuff, conducting conferences and advising organizations on supporting women.

Many outreach programs were conducted in women’s universities all over the world to encourage students to participate in the Wikimedia movement. The Women’s History month edit-a-thons conducted every year, attracts both male and female editors to write biographies of notable women on Wikipedia.

The Wikimedia Foundation has set a goal to raise the share of female contributors to 25% by 2015. Given the good response from the community to various events conducted for women, it is likely that the foundation will achieve its goal within the set time limit.

If you would like to get engaged in various activities for women in Wikipedia, write to me or join us here.

Women, we can do it: A conversation with Anastasia Lvova

This is the report of my interview with the Russian Wikimedian, Anastasia Lvova.

Anastasia Lvova’s story should be an inspiration to women editing Wikipedia. She started editing Russian Wikipedia in 2007, because she found volunteering very interesting and useful to society. She has been one of the most active editors of Russian Wikipedia since. After writing her first article (certification) and improving her first good article (RFID), she became dedicated to Wikipedia.

 

lvova_i_edit_wikipedia
Lvova. CC-BY-SA. Self.
Lvova’s contributions to Wikipedia and the Wikimedia community are impressive. She runs a bot, which does automated tasks on Wikipedia. It is now active on multiple language Wikipedias. She is also a Toolserver user — where she works on the Connectivity project — and an agent for Wikipedia’s volunteer customer service group, OTRS. She has created more than 2,200 new articles and authored some good and featured articles about Ireland and the arts. She has made as many as 404 edits in a day, 23,777 actions with flagged revision in a month and more than 60,000 edits in all! She was at the lead in organizing Wiki Loves Monuments Russia in 2011. She is an advocate for free knowledge and took part in organizing protests against internet censorship in Russia. A large part of her collection of images on Wikimedia Commons are photos from her foreign trips, because according to Russian law, photos of still-in-copyright buildings are not free.Outside the Wikimedia network, she is a photographer and writer. She graduated with a degree in management and is currently pursuing her graduate degree in psychology. She maintains a blog where she posts about her activities within and outside Wikipedia. She is also involved in charity and volunteering, and likes spending time writing letters to the elderly and children in orphanages. For her, these hobbies contribute to her activities within Wikipedia, as her hobbies help her create ideas for writing Wikipedia articles.For Lvova, being a woman editor is a positive. She says that the Russian community is receptive to woman editors, and fellow editors have helped her from time to time. She has met like-minded individuals from the community, and has done collaborative projects with them. She has noticed that the Russian wiki-community sometimes expects feminine behavior from women editors, but she says it’s not really a problem for her. She also noted that in the past, when it was hard for women to teach in universities, they became teachers, fighting against the odds, even disguising themselves as men to be able to teach. Women should be inspired by the past and feel empowered to contribute now, she argued. “Dear women, we can do it, and sharing information has always been our competence,” she said with a smile.Lvova enjoyed meeting other women editors in Argentina during the WikiWomenCamp, a meeting of women Wikimedians from around the world that took place in May 2012.“WikiWomenCamp was helpful for me not only because I got new contacts and a new perspective of things, but also because it gave me some courage to work for women’s issues,” Lvova said. She was grateful to receive a grant from Wikimedia Germany to participate in WikipWomenCamp and she has been supported by Wikimedia Poland to attend two Wikimanias and several wikiconferences.After WikiWomenCamp, Lvova started a project for new woman editors to write articles about notable women on Russian Wikipedia (they have written about 50 articles so far). She said she wishes to be helped by both men and women in her community to bridge the gender gap in Wikipedia. She thinks that this is an issue which has to be dealt with urgently. “Statistics show that around 6 to 23 percent editors are women, but we can’t be sure yet as many women prefer to disguise themselves as men because they think that a man’s opinion would be preferred over a womans,” said Lvova. She, therefore, likes to research about women’s participation in her home wiki.Her activities on Wikimedia have helped her visit interesting places, but the most rewarding experience for her has been meeting fellow Wikimedians. Through these events she has met new people who have helped her learn fresh ideas for problems, many of which were not raised in local discussions. If you want to say a ‘hi’ to Anastasia, the best place to drop by would be her talk page, where she says she would welcome the discussion.
This post was first published on Wikimedia blog on 16th October, 2012. The interview was conducted as a part of the activities of WikiWomenCollaborative. 

WikiWomenCamp 2012

Participating in an international conference for women is a wonderful experience. It is more rewarding when the conference is for Wikimedians to discuss issues primarily concerning women.  The WikiWomenCamp, held at Buenos Aires, Argentina from 23-25 June and WikiGenero held on the next day was an enlightening experience not only for me, but also for the other 16 attendees from 15 countries of the world.

On the first day, we began by introducing each other. The discussion was held in open space format and all of us proposed sessions that are of importance to women working with Wikiprojects.  There were sessions on chapters and women, Wikipedia and education, dealing with abuse on Wikipedia, attracting femalewriters through social networks and many other topics which dealt with women participation and outreach in Wikiprojects.

The traditionally assigned gender role of women in India is to look after the household and rear children. With the passage of time, educated women started to get employed and started having finances of their own, but most of them still continue to fulfill the gender roles in addition to their career, leaving very little time for volunteering. The gender gap that exists in the global Wikimedia community has its reflections in India also. Although the number of women volunteers from India working with Wikimedia is rising overtime, their number is far less than that of male volunteers. With the IndiaEducation Program, many new women have ventured into Wikiprojects as CampusAmbassadors, but their number is far lesser than men.

 Participants of the WikiWomenCamp, Buenos Aires, Argentina

 By Jaluj (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

 

The insights I provided were on the diversity of languages and cultures in India, and how one language Wikiproject differs from the other in terms of culture, and how it is reflected in the article writing styles. I also mentioned about the outreach programs that are being successfully conducted in India through social media and universities mainly aiming students enthusiastic about working with free knowledge projects.
At the WikiWomenCamp, every session was a new learning experience. There was always some idea I could propose, and a new piece of information I could make a note of. The insights and opinions of the elderly participants and that of the educators were valuable. The facilitation in open space format was comfortable and highly productive – it gave opportunities for women to lead and facilitate sessions who would otherwise have remained silent. Notes were taken on Wiki to ensure that the ideas shaped out of the discussions are recorded for future reference.  
The important decisions taken by the members at the conference were the creation of an emergency mailing list for dealing with abuse, relaunching of WikiChix – the Women’s wiki, WikiWomen Translate program and launching OTRS queue for harassment. The feasibility of launching new global projects for women with participation from the home countries of the members was also discussed.
The camp made me more sensitive towards gender issues and helped me learn wonderful ideas for increasing women participation in the Wikiprojects of my home country. Besides, I could discuss with representatives from other countries about providing them assistance in launching gender specific projects in their home country. The camp was directly relevant to my experiences and qualifications, and meeting many WikiWomen boosted my confidence in working with outreach programs.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to Wikimedia Germany and Wikimedia Austria for granting me scholarship to attend the first WikiWomenCamp. The excellent work done by Wikimedia Argentina, Wikimedia Germany, Wikimedia Australia and Wikimedia Austria in supporting women’s events is very much appreciated.

Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing

The GraceHopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference will be held on December 13 and 14, 2012 at the Lalit Ashok Hotel, Bangalore. It is presented by Anita Borg Institute for Women in Technology and ACM India. The conference aims at increasing the participation of women in careers and research in computing. This year, the theme of the conference is ‘Beyond Boundaries’ –helping women to tackle challenges and explore new avenues in computing. 

Women in technology all over the world are facing similar challenges, says Shruti, one of the coordinators of the conference. Women are stereotyped throughout the career that they are not good enough to pursue a career in computing, which seriously decreases their self confidence. There is a scarcity of women role-models and mentors which women can emulate, mostly leaving them to carve a niche on their own. Women, being so little in number, are alienated at workplace and college by their peers, which significantly demoralize them. Women also lack access to influential social networks which limit their career growth.  Shruti adds that, in India, the gender roles defined for women are more exacting than in other parts of the world, leaving them with a poor work-life balance.

Grace Hopper operating the UNIVAC. By Unknown (Smithsonian Institution) (Flickr: Grace Hopper and UNIVAC) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons)
The GHC will look into the causes of lack of women participation, highlight the contributions of women in computing, give personal and professional support to starting a career in computing and provide a platform for like-minded women to interact with each other and take up joint initiatives. The two-day conference will have posters, presentations, workshops and panel discussions. The presenters are chosen from a variety of backgrounds, including industrial, academic and governmental communities. 
The Grace Hopper Conference is an annual event held in India and the US in memory of Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, who was a computer scientist and navy officer. People of all nationalities are welcome to attend the conference. However, the conference will deal mainly with issues relating to women and computing in India. “To this end, each conference has a track that is specific to the needs and challenges of students and new grads. These sessions offer a mix of advice, personal stories, experiences and knowledge to give students a headstart in planning their career paths, building networks and gaining life skills”, claims Shruti, who is also a leading blogger. 
The conference is expected to create a huge impact among women in Bangalore and the rest of the country. The call for participation is now open, the details can be found here.