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Speaker A: Um.

Speaker B: This is Wikipedia Weekly, the podcast for anyone who's ever said. Well, actually, Wikipedia has a really good article on that. Today we talk to user awadowitz, the Wiki authority on 18th century english literature. Barn nun. She's got bronze. Good article review. Barn stars four. Good article. Barn stars four. Barn stars of diligence, literary stars, working women's stars, and my favorite, the fist of respect. Hello and welcome to the show. How are you going today?

Speaker A: I'm doing well, thank you.

Speaker B: Is that your name? That your username? Awadowit. It's a very interesting.

Speaker A: Yeah, you can make up any sort of pronunciation you want, I think.

Speaker B: Okay, so what is your most recently featured article? Because I think you have about 13. Is that correct?

Speaker A: Yeah, you know, I don't even know the number. The most recently featured one. I don't know, actually, might be. It's certainly one of the ones on Mary Wilsoncraft. I think it's the vindication of the rights of men.

Speaker B: The vindication might be the ones of men. A lot of people, I imagine we've heard of the vindication of the rights of women. Mary Wilson cast being one of the most famous first wave feminists.

Speaker A: Well, she's not a first wave feminist. No, because there is no feminist movement until the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. Actually, if you read the feminism page, which is fairly good on Wikipedia, you can read the history of first wave feminism.

Speaker B: I'm showing my.

Speaker A: Oh, you can probably call Mary Wilsoncraft, in my opinion, a proto feminist. And actually, on the vindication of the rights of woman page, one of the foremost Wilson Kraft scholars, Barbara Taylor, talks about why or why not. You can call her an actual feminist, but she certainly wasn't part of the historical first wave movement, since there was no feminist movement at the time, and she would never have used that word herself. For 100 years after her death, she was reviled as a prostitute and a whore. Gee, it's really a fascinating story. One of the reasons I sort of got interested in her writings. After her death, her husband, William Godwin, the philosopher, was brokenhearted and decided to write a biography of her. And he was inspired by Rousseau's new ideas about how biographies and autobiographies should look. Rousseau had written a very influential autobiography called the Confessions, and if somebody could expand that page on Wikipedia, that would be wonderful. Sort of a stub right now. But it was incredibly influential. It was a bestseller, and he sort of wrote this 400 page sort of outpouring of his soul that he was going to write exactly what he thought. And so Godwin took this to heart, and he said, well, I'm going to write exactly what Mary Wilsoncraft's life was like. And he said everything about her that he knew that she had had an affair. She had tried to have a threesome with Henry Fusili and his wife. She had had an illegitimate child.

Speaker B: When are we talking here?

Speaker A: Yes, at the end of the 18th century, in the 1780s and 1790s. This is completely unacceptable. Obviously, in many places now, it still is unacceptable. Then it was even more unacceptable. And when this was published, people were outraged. They were shocked. They were bald. Right. And whatever respect she might have gained as a writer was totally lost, because.

Speaker B: She did have incredible respect in her day. She was the editor of really important magazine and literary journal, the Analytical Review.

Speaker A: Until this biography was published. And once it was published, that really was completely lost for about a century.

Speaker B: So she was only revived as an important and respected character in the late 19th century.

Speaker A: Yeah, so once what you were talking about is the first away feminist movement comes along. People like Emma Goldman, Lucretia Mott, some of these figures, they try to resurrect Wilson Kraft, but it's very difficult because there's such this association with her of these terrible sort of immoral acts and values that it's difficult for them to even use her writings. They talk about being inspired by her life. Virginia Wolf referred to her experiments in living as something to be inspired by. But it really was difficult for these women to use her writings or even refer to her. And that's why it's even sketchy to say that Wilson Kraft is like an inspiration for the feminist movement, because it's so oblique. Any references to her to prove that is very difficult. Very difficult.

Speaker B: Okay, well, what is your interest in Wilsoncraft and in 18th century literature, children's literature?

Speaker A: Well, originally, I became interested in Wilson Craft's story called original Stories from real life, which is a book that she wrote for children. Not many people know that Wilsoncraft wrote children's books, but indeed she did. She also wrote a book called thoughts on the education of daughters, about how to raise a daughter all the way from infancy to marriage. And I became fascinated by the fact that Wilsoncraft was interested in education throughout her entire life. Almost all her books have something to do with education. So I started reading not only Wilsoncraft's book, but also women such as Anna Letitia Barbeau, Sarah Trimmer, Mary Martha Sherwood. And I really wanted to understand the answers to the question, which I haven't been able to find yet. But I'm still searching for of how it was that women who did not share any political similarity, because women such as Sarah Trimmer or Hannah Moore are generally viewed as extremely conservative, what might be called anti jacobin at the time, they were against the ideals of the French Revolution, whereas women such as Barbeau orcraft were very much in support of the French Revolution. Wilson Kraft even went to France in support of the French Revolution.

Speaker B: But they all just writing children's books. She's getting involved in the politics of the day.

Speaker A: That's right. Yeah, exactly. But they all supported education for women. And oftentimes writing for children was a way that they could get involved in the public sphere.

Speaker B: They could format that. You could talk to women via children's books.

Speaker A: Well, actually you could talk to the nation, because most of these women would write and say, well, I am going to describe the ideal citizen. And the way to educate the ideal citizen is this. And then it's described in their children's literature. The ideal citizen is the future for the nation. And that's really fascinating that they are stepping forth and saying, I feel that I have the right to participate in this discussion about what the future of our country is going to look like. And what's even more fascinating is that all of these women across this entire political spectrum have very much the same idea of what that future citizen should look like. I really want to talk about the fairy tale thing, actually, because it's quite fascinating. They're anti fairy tale. They believed in a rational worldview and were determined to oust fairy tales because they perpetuated superstition and irrationality. Obviously, that didn't work out. I mean, we live in a fairy tale ridden world for children. But it's fascinating to read their views on fairy tales because they really were concerned that children were going to believe in stories that were totally untrue, such as ghost stories.

Speaker B: Why don't we go back to the beginning? Where are you speaking to us from today?

Speaker A: The United States in the midwest.

Speaker B: Okay. And you're a university academic, but you prefer to remain quite anonymous. Can you elaborate on that?

Speaker A: Yes, I'm a graduate student, which means that my employment is in the humanities, which means that my employment is rather precarious. I don't have a job yet. And in the humanities, Wikipedia does not have quite the same acceptance. I don't think that it does in the sciences.

Speaker B: Don't I know it.

Speaker A: Tell me about it.

Speaker B: Well, I'm currently an undergraduate. Yes, I'm taking my honors thesis in the school of history, on the academic lineage of Wikipedia, and how Wikipedia relates to historiographical arguments on authorship or the authority of knowledge, on censorship and things like that. And it's not only difficult to get them to accept that it might be an interesting topic to start with, but accept that you could even deal with Wikipedia in the context of academic debates in historiography. So before I even can write thesis properly, I have to convince the people in the faculty that it is a legitimate topic of concern that they should be aware of.

Speaker A: You have to find the right person. Yes, that's what it's all about, finding the right person who's interested.

Speaker B: So you're worried that if you publicize publicly your interest and experience on Wikipedia, that you won't get a job because you'd be laughed out of town.

Speaker A: I'm very concerned, actually, I'm very concerned about that. I'm concerned that people will think that perhaps I've wasted time that I could have spent on my dissertation, time I could have spent publishing articles.

Speaker B: That's really sad.

Speaker A: Yeah. And it is because I really view the time that I have spent working on things for Wikipedia, which is related to what I'm studying as sort of public service, as part of being a public intellectual, because I'm often engaged in conversations with people on Wikipedia where I feel like I'm explaining what it means to be a scholar and I'm explaining even down to the level of, well, here's how you write a paragraph, or here's where you write a sentence. Right? Is that a wasted time? No, I don't think so, because that's what I do all the time. Yeah, that's what I do as that's my field, rhetoric and language. And I also feel that when, for example, you type into Google any of the things that I study in the 18th century, and they come up and they're empty in Wikipedia. I mean, the 18th century is just really sad on Wikipedia.

Speaker B: Well, not needful, thanks to you.

Speaker A: Well, 13 articles or whatever, please. Since so many people in the world are looking at us first, why don't the people who have the knowledge, who already have taken the years to study, yeah, why don't they just donate it? I mean, I belong to a listserve of 18th century academics, and I was so distressed to see that one person said they had checked the Samuel Johnson article and that it was filled with errors. And I thought to myself, why didn't you fix them? It would have been easy for you who had studied for 20 years.

Speaker B: But no, I bet the people that you work with on a day to day basis have no idea that you are most probably the world's most foremost resource for information about that period or about english literature of that period. That more people read your work about Mary Wilson Craft than the officially recognized expert on Mary Wilson Craft.

Speaker A: It's kind of scary. Sometimes I think about this, that what I have written about Mary Wilson Craft is now populated all over the web. I see it sometimes on other websites because they copy off of Wikipedia and it sometimes frightens me. It's kind of disturbing.

Speaker B: You're secretly famous.

Speaker A: Yeah, exactly. But it is a sort of fascinating thing. And every once in a while when I meet somebody who is a professor or another graduate student who I think might be receptive to the idea, I mentioned it and I say, you know, it would be a really good idea if you wrote an article because. But it's very hard to convince people that they should spend their time doing something that they're not going to get any credit for on their cv or when they're applying for tenure. But getting a job in the humanities is a very difficult proposition. About 200 to 400 people apply for every job, and they are just always looking for a reason to throw somebody out of that pool.

Speaker B: It's truly sad that that should come to arbitrary draws a parallel in my mind between what you were saying about Mary Wilsoncraft and how her and her contemporaries were not allowed to participate in the public debate on citizenship because they were women, and so they came around it in a sort of a secret way by writing children's books. You seem to be having a similar approach, that you're not allowed to broach the topic of freeing out knowledge because you're not allowed to broach the topic of being an academic because you're a Wikipedia writer and those two things are mutually exclusive. So you come about it a secret way and produce your secretly famous, produce your work and then hide the fact. It's sort of bit of a parallel, wouldn't you say?

Speaker A: I think I'm a little bit more open about being an academic than poor Mary Wilson Craft, whose life I feel was a great deal more tragic than my own. But I guess I feel that perhaps someday I will be able to post on my user page if I'm lucky enough to get an academic job.

Speaker B: On masks.

Speaker A: Right, exactly. I want to be able to do that. I want to be able to be transparent. I do. But the danger, I feel it because I've been on job search committees and I've seen what they say about candidates and I've read the Chronicle of Higher education's columns about job search committees, and it makes me wary.

Speaker B: You were saying before we started this interview about in the aftermath of the SJ controversy, where a person was very publicly kicked out of Wikipedia because he had been exposed as an academic fraud. His work was quite good on Wikipedia, but he was pretending to be an academic when he indeed wasn't. And you were quite vocal in that discussion afterwards about whether or not Wikipedia should require people who are saying they have qualifications to prove it.

Speaker A: Yes, I do not think that they should require people to have qualifications simply because people who are junior faculty members or graduate students like myself, particularly in the humanities, if you require that, they won't say they're academics. I mean, if I had known that there would be such a discussion about qualifications, I would never have said I was an academic. I would never have made any such claim, but would never have discussed it. But it is nice to be able to go to somebody's user page and have them say that, because then I know that I can discuss certain things with those people that I would not be able to discuss with other people. It's just a certain way of talking. If I can talk in a certain shorthand that's fast and easy and I don't have to explain myself. Like I can say JStore and somebody knows what I'm talking about, which is a database where you search for articles and not everybody knows what that is.

Speaker B: Or has access to it.

Speaker A: Right, exactly. And then I don't assume when I'm talking to somebody who might not be at a university institution that pays the enormous amount of money to have access to that, who does not identify that kind of thing on their user page. I would not make that kind of assumption. The statements that people make about themselves on their user pages, they help me gauge the kinds of rhetoric I want to use, the kinds of assumptions you can begin with. So if someone says that they're a high school student, I'm going to say and assume different kinds of research skills, for example, or research access than I am. If someone's going to say I live in Chicago, or if someone says that they've graduated from law school or that kind of thing, and you can start to assume a greater familiarity with search engines and databases and that sort of thing, I find that kind of information very helpful. I'm not talking about, I have a cat user boxes here. That's all very fascinating, but doesn't really help gauge when you're having a discussion about the quality of an article or anything. That's why in the aftermath of the SJ thing, I felt that those statements, they are very helpful. And whether or not you can actually verify them, I still think that they should be there. And even though I can't prove to anybody on Wikipedia that I am a graduate student.

Speaker B: Well, you can, but just choose not to, right?

Speaker A: I mean, I thought it would help people understand where I'm coming from to know that that's my orientation towards literature and scholarship.

Speaker B: What is the best practical way for the Wikipedia to become less anti elitist and correspondingly, the academy to become less anti Wikipedia.

Speaker A: Okay, what do you mean by Wikipedia being anti elitist?

Speaker B: Well, you say on your user page you have a link to the essay why Wikipedia must jettison its anti elitism.

Speaker A: Yeah, but just because I have a link doesn't mean that.

Speaker B: Well, I assume you agree with.

Speaker A: I agree with everything in it, but I mean, the term anti elitism in the United States can mean a lot of know. It can mean like anti latte, anti volvo driving. Right. All those things. I think that anti elitism on Wikipedia means something much more specific than all of that. It means anti intellectualism. In my life I've come into contact a lot of anti intellectualism. I grew up in a really rural area that was extremely anti intellectual. It was almost like anti knowledge. And I don't see that kind of anti intellectualism in Wikipedia anywhere. I mean, people who participate in Wikipedia to some extent can't be that kind of anti intellectual because they are participating in, by definition. Yeah. In an enterprise that wants to, by definition, disseminate reliable knowledge to the rest of the world. Where the problems come in are where people start to dispute what is reliable knowledge. I have a different idea about reliable knowledge than some other editors, and I think that that is something that Wikipedia in some real way has not come to grips with. What is reliable. Right. Encyclopedia Britannica is legitimate because it's the encyclopedia Britannica. Right. That's the circular reasoning that people tell themselves they really do. They purchase it because they say it's encyclopedia Britannica, therefore it's reliable. Right. Wikipedia really has to prove itself. It has to prove itself very well.

Speaker B: Slowly and carefully, over a long period of time.

Speaker A: Yeah, exactly. And I think that we have to hold ourselves to an incredibly high standard to be able to do that. And I think that the higher the standard we hold ourselves to, the more sort of impressed, first of all, the people in the academy will be. You were talking about how are we going to change people's minds in the academy. First of all, the more impressed people in the academy will be. And if people in the academy start saying, wow, Wikipedia really has done a good job on this, right, that can kind of percolate down, right? To some extent, because then you'll get, well, wasn't there an article like published in Nature or something about how I.

Speaker B: Use that example quite often. It was a very comprehensive journal, nature journal study, where they have similar articles in Wikipedia and in Britannica were compared by peer reviewed effectively by academics in that particular area. And the result was, ironically, that they both were equally wrong.

Speaker A: Right. They all had the same number of errors, like two to three errors per article, two or three major, and a.

Speaker B: Couple of minor errors or omissions. And the result was that Wikipedia produced a page saying, a meter page saying, these are the mistakes that they've identified. Everyone, let's pitch in to fix them. In a month they were fixed, ticked off. Britannica, on the other hand, responded by.

Speaker A: They would have to wait years to fix it.

Speaker B: Not just that, they responded. Rather than saying, this is interesting and this is academic debate and whatnot, they responded by buying a full page advertisement in the London Times, decrying nature's methodology. Yeah. And that really shows the difference in the approach.

Speaker A: I would be interested in an analysis of literature articles and history articles because I have a feeling that Wikipedia would not come out so well.

Speaker B: They were all science articles, obviously.

Speaker A: Yes. The science articles I have found in Wikipedia to be superb. The ones that I have read, I am not a science expert. However, I do live with one and that's handy. But the ones that I have read are amazing. They're comprehensive. I can read them as a non scientist myself, understand them. I am really astounded by the effort that has been put into them. I live with someone who is an undergraduate physics major and he was looking for articles to write because he loves physics and he would love to write an article.

Speaker B: And there was nothing left.

Speaker A: There was nothing left. On the other hand, I can always find something to write about on the 18th century. There is always a stub rating to be expanded. There's always a page. All these red links that I could make. I could make red links all day long. It's incredible. I mean, for example, one of the best selling novels of the 18th century, Rousseau's Julie, the New Eloise, which helped generate an entire new genre, this sentimental novel. I mean, people went to visit Rousseau, they cried over this novel, they read it all night. Mean, you know, it's that kind of bestseller has a couple of paragraphs.

Speaker B: It's doubly difficult to write about or doubly missing on Wikipedia because one, it's old, and two, it's not in English.

Speaker A: Right. Although there's a translation of the novel and there's plenty of scholarship on it in English. It's just all of these major works in the 18th century are missing. And I haven't done a major survey of the 19th century or the 17th century or other countries, but I can only imagine that it's equally as bad in places like Africa or Asia. This is just one thing that I happen to know a lot about, so I know what's.

Speaker B: But there's many areas like that, no doubt.

Speaker A: So I sort of feel like even though that survey that they did about science articles was to Wikipedia's great benefit, I feel that there should be some sort of survey done about history and literature in these other fields to see, well, what is it that's missing and what do we need to improve on?

Speaker B: Can I turn your attention to the role of women on Wikipedia and their proportion, how much they participate, and whether you feel women are not represented fully in articles and in editorship?

Speaker A: Well, I'd like to turn to editorship first because I think that's a really interesting question. I'm not sure we know. First of all, you counted, interestingly, all the barn stars I was given, did you read them, what they said?

Speaker B: I didn't read what, the notes that came with them. No.

Speaker A: Yeah. Half of them said he.

Speaker B: Really?

Speaker A: Yeah. Because many people did not know my gender for a long time, because I didn't say on my user page what my gender was. It was very interesting to me. And people started leaving notes on my user page. I wasn't sure if you were a he or a she. And it was very interesting. So finally I did put a box at the top of my talk page that says that I'm a she because people were getting kind of concerned that they didn't know.

Speaker B: It's interesting that people would find that important.

Speaker A: Yes. It was fascinating to me, first of all, that they did find it important. It was also fascinating to me that for a long time people assumed I was a he. I started asking people why they assumed that. Was it because of my aggressive style of writing. I wondered if it was that, because I had assumed that anyone going to my user page would assume I was a woman, because people who write about women's issues in literature are most often a woman. So I had just assumed people would think, well, of course she's a woman. She's writing about children and she's writing about women. How could she not be a woman?

Speaker B: That's what I did. And I had assumed that you were female on the basis that you were writing about women's stuff. And that's equally bad.

Speaker A: It is. But the probability that you would have been right was so high. Know, perhaps make the stereotype not so bad. But I did find it fascinating that I was a he for a very long time.

Speaker B: I see one here. The Barn star of high culture, given to you in July this year. This Barn star is awarded to our demet for his FA and GA work on classical era topics such as Mary Bulson Graft and Joseph Priestley.

Speaker A: And I love it. Actually, there was a whole discussion on my talk page a while ago about what gender.

Speaker B: I was on your talk page and you didn't answer.

Speaker A: Well, actually, I think I said something about embracing all genders, because that was fabulous. I didn't really want to be either one. Yeah, I actually thought that was fun. So, with the editorship, I'm not really sure we know how many men and women are there. People declare their genders with user boxes, but they could be declaring anything with that. And of course, I've seen male and female user boxes on the same page. I don't know what's going on with that. To some extent, you assume it's more male simply because it's more technology oriented, but I think that's probably a dangerous assumption. How much data do we really have on this?

Speaker B: The reason I asked recently was because there was a mailing list set up a while ago, and I'm not sure if it still exists, called wiki chicks, which was a mailing list exclusively for female editors of Wikipedia. I've never heard that. Got a lot of people a bit angry on the basis that it was exclusivist, but in a affirmative action kind of way. Now, at Wikimania, Taiwan, at the opening speech by Florence de Vivoard, or the chairperson of the foundation, there was a special table set aside for wiki chicks. Their efforts are laudable in the sense of promoting and providing a community for female editors on the community. But what is your initial reaction to that idea?

Speaker A: I guess my initial reaction is, do they feel isolated? Because usually such communities help people who feel isolated. So, for example, there are often physics for women groups, right? In physics departments. Because there are so few women in those departments, they feel very isolated. It's a very different kind of culture, and so it's often good to have those kinds of groups. Right. I can imagine such a group for men in an english department because they're often dominated by women. Right. So I guess my question would be, are women feeling isolated on Wikipedia that they would need such a group?

Speaker B: Do you?

Speaker A: No, but I never advertised really what my gender was. So you have now, really? Yeah, until very recently, because I never really viewed that as particularly important to what I was doing. Actually, I kind of disliked the idea that only women can write about women's issues or that kind of thing, even though that is very common. And that argument has been made particularly for things like in english departments anyway, for african american literature, for example, that, I don't know, perhaps. Is this group made up of people who've been on Wikipedia for many years? I've only been on Wikipedia for a. Even. It's not a very long about your work.

Speaker B: Not only are you writing a dissertation and professional academic and you're doing all this amazing stuff, you've only been here for a year.

Speaker A: If the women have been on Wikipedia for like three or four years, I'm sure they have a much better idea of perhaps the isolating effect of being a woman on Wikipedia or something. I wonder if it would be interesting to have it be a group dedicated to women's issues on Wikipedia rather than women on Wikipedia. So people who are interested in making sure that women don't feel excluded or isolated on Wikipedia, because men can be interested in those issues. Men can be a champion for mean, I know that, for example, a lot of feminists have said, no, they can't, that that's not a good thing, actually, that women should be the people championing women's own causes. But I don't think that there should be such a division. There should be people arguing for women, right? Not just women arguing for women and men arguing for men. I think that's where in academia, for example, we've had so many problems with women scientists, for example, arguing that they should have family leave time, et cetera, and men never arguing for that. Men who have families should have family leave time too. And if it were people arguing for family leave time, I think that there would be a lot less discrimination against female scientists and it would be a sort of more equal atmosphere, if you know what I mean.

Speaker B: Well, I think we should probably leave it there at that quite large digression from where we started up at barn Stars and Mary Wilson Craft. Although it has a lot of contemporary relationship, I hope that one day soon you'll be able to cast off your mask and proclaim to your faculty into the world. I am the world scholar on Mary Wilson Craft and everyone around the world has been reading my work much more than you. And I truly hope that happens. It saddens me greatly to hear that you are not only hiding your knowledge and experience because you think it might be embarrassing, but it's actually going to damage your career being an authority on a website.

Speaker A: Yeah, I know. It worries me for the future of the Internet, actually.

Speaker B: I think it'll change. I think it'll change the conclusion to my thesis, I hope, if I can justify the sentence, will be along the lines that just as it has become necessary for academics to publish in journals, in peer reviewed journals, and that's a required part of the job, it'll become, over the next decade or so, required part of the job for academics to not necessarily write, but at least monitor and participate in the articles on Wikipedia in which they are an expert.

Speaker A: Oh, the next decade, I think that's optimistic. But perhaps the next quarter century, if.

Speaker B: We'Re still around that long.

Speaker A: Oh, I think it will be. I think it will be. It's inserting itself into the ether, I think as long as it can sustain funds. Right. It's all about the money.

Speaker B: Yeah, well, that's a whole episode in itself.

Speaker A: Yeah, exactly.

Speaker B: So thank you so much for spending your time with us today. I know it's been difficult trying to catch on to you. You've got a very busy life. Thank you.

Speaker A: Well, and we're 13 hours apart.

Speaker B: Yeah. Thank you very much.

Speaker A: You're welcome. Thank you very much.