Ada Lovelace, Exmoor ponies and the trouble with sources

Madeleine Shepherd and Anne-Marie Scott, ALD18, CC BY, Lorna M. Campbell

I didn’t manage to post a blog post on Ada Lovelace Day this year because I spent most of my spare time in the run up to the event looking for sources for the twenty contemporary Women in STEM nominated for Wikipedia article creation as part of the University of Edinburgh’s Ada Lovelace Day Editathon. The event itself is always one of the highlights of the year and this year was no exception. We had a really inspiring series of talks in the morning from the University’s Women in STEM and Physics Societies and the student WellComm Kings initiative. Mathematician and maker Madeleine Shepherd of Knot Unknot also came along and showed us her amazing knitted portraits of Ada Lovelace and Mary Somerville, which she created on a hacked knitting machine. We had a range of activities including DIY Filmschool and cake decorating followed by Wikipedia and Wikidata editing in the afternoon.

Back to those sources though…

Finding good quality secondary sources for contemporary academics can be tricky and it’s doubly difficult for female academics whose work is less visible and less widely reported. Wikipedia relies on independent secondary sources; it’s not sufficient for an academic to have published extensively, to be regarded as notable, it’s necessary to show that they have had a significant impact in their field. This can be problematic for female academics, and particularly for women in STEM, who routinely face discrimination on account of their gender.

There was much outrage in the press recently when it was reported that Donna Strickland did not have a Wikipedia entry until she received the Nobel Prize for Physics, with some news reports throwing up their hands in horror at Wikipedia’s gender bias. This isn’t news to anyone who has engaged with or edited Wikipedia of course. We are all well aware of Wikipedia’s gender bias, there’s even a Wikipedia article about it, and we’re working hard to fix it through our Wikimedia chapters, editathons and projects such as Wiki Women in Red. Also as Alex Hinojo pointed out:

In an article titled Wikipedia is a mirror of the world’s gender biases, Wikimedia Foundation’s Executive Director Katherine Maher, noted that it’s somewhat disingenuous for the press to complain about Strickland’s lack of Wikipedia entry when the achievements of women scientists are routinely under reported. We need more reports and independent secondary sources so we can improve the coverage of women on the encyclopaedia.

Wikipedia is built on the shoulders of giants. We’re generalists who learn from the expertise of specialists, and summarize it for the world to share. If journalists, editors, researchers, curators, academics, grantmakers, and prize-awarding committees don’t apply their expertise to identifying, recognizing, and elevating more diverse talent, then our editors have no shoulders upon which to stand. It’s time for these other knowledge-generating institutions to join us in the pursuit of knowledge equity. Wikipedia alone can’t change how society values women, but together we can change how they are seen.

A case in point is Mary Etherington, one of the women nominated for our Ada Lovelace Day editahon. The person who nominated Mary wrote

Mary Etherington was integral to the protection of the Exmoor pony breed after the war. She saw the importance of protecting the breed which was nearly extinct after the ponies had been used as a meat source during rationing and as target practise for the armies on Exmoor.

Whilst she is well known within the Exmoor pony breed, I believe she may be lost to time due to her rural links and the general lack of representation for rural matters on Wikipedia as well as her being a woman.

I really struggled to find many good sources about Mary online, but one of our editathon participants, Vicki Madden, was captivated by her story and determined to create an article about her. After some creative research and round about thinking, Vicki and Anne-Marie were able to find a whole range of independent sources and Mary Etherington now has her own shiny new Wikipedia entry.

Meanwhile I wrote an article on Tara Spires-Jones Professor of Neurodegeneration and Deputy Director of the Centre for Discovery Brain Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. I don’t know Tara personally but in her nomination she was described as:

World-leading research into molecular mechanisms of dementia. Works tirelessly to promote public understanding of science through expert comment in press and public engagement activities. Lovely person and very supportive of other women.

I hope her new Wikipedia article will help to raise awareness of her work to the general public and go a little way to replaying the support she has provided to others.

Wiki Loves Monuments 2018 – Pipped at the post!

Wiki Loves Monuments, Wikimedia’s annual photography competition, came to a close at the end of September.  An astonishing 4,374 images of Scottish scheduled monuments and listed buildings were uploaded to Wikimedia Commons over the course of the month, over double last year’s total of 2,104 and almost a third of the 14,203 images uploaded in the UK.

Competition was fierce towards the end of the month, Ewan McAndrew, our indefatigable Wikimedian in Residence, pipped me at the post on the very last day of the competition with 442 uploads (13th overall) to my 383 (15th) and Anne-Marie’s 213 pictures of graveyards (21st).  In my defence, I was wrestling with an outrageously crap internet connection at home that almost had me weeping with frustration while I waited hours for images to upload. Still, over a thousand uploads is not a bad score for one division of Information Services!

It was great to see so many new people getting involved in the competition this year too through the efforts of Sara Thomas, Wikimedia UK’s Scotland Programme Coordinator and Delphine Dallison, Wikimedian in Residence at SLIC.

Wiki Loves Monuments is so much fun that I’m always a little sad when it’s over, and it’s almost impossible to break the habit of pulling out my phone to snap any likely looking listed building I pass.  I’m already storing up pictures for next year!

Kirkandrews Memorial Chapel, CC BY SA, Lorna M. Campbell

Wiki Loves Monuments 2018

Smailholm Tower, by Keith Proven, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

Tomorrow marks the start of Wiki Loves Monuments, Wikimedia’s annual photography competition, which runs throughout the month of September. The rules are simple, all you need to do is register a Wikimedia Commons account, take an original picture of a scheduled monument or listed building, and upload it to Wikimedia Commons using this interactive map. In addition to the overall prizes for the best UK entries, this year there are new prizes, sponsored by Archaeology Scotland, for the best three images of Scottish monuments. There are also going to be prizes for the photographer who uploads the largest number of images of monuments that are not currently represented on Wikimedia Commons.  For further information you can contact Wikimedia UK’s Scotland Coordinator Sara Thomas.

The best thing about Wiki Loves Monuments, is that anyone can enter. You don’t need a fancy camera, you don’t need to be a history geek, and you don’t even need to go out of your way to photograph historic monuments, most of us pass dozens of listed buildings on our way to and from work every day. All you need to do is check the map for monuments near you, take a snap with your phone, upload it to Commons and voila!

I had great fun taking part in the competition last year and managed to upload 184 images, just a fraction of the amazing 1,351 uploaded by colleagues from the University of Edinburgh during the competition.  Most of the pictures I entered were old holiday snaps, and though I may not have won any prizes, it really is the taking part that counts.  It’s great to be able to make a contribution to the Commons. It’s also nice to see some of these open licensed pictures taking on a life of their own after the competition. My picture of Culzean Castle, which appears on the Wikipedia page about the film The Wicker Man, has now been viewed over 28,000 times.  And a picture I took of the Circular Records Hall at the National Archives of Scotland featured in an article in Atlas Obscura.

I’ll be raking through my old holiday snaps again this year, but I’ve also got a whole bunch of new pictures ready to upload that I took during my summer holidays in Galloway and the Outer Hebrides. Some of these pictures are places I have a real personal connection to; houses I passed every day as a child, my old school, the church that witnessed all my family’s births, deaths and marriages, the clock tower that’s all that remains of the building where my mother went to school in the 1940s, the castle where my granny worked as a cook. Others are monuments I stumbled on by accident, like the tiny Arts and Crafts church in Galloway, or snapped from the side of the road, like Cardoness Castle. I even have a picture of a 16th century cats paw print from Glen Luce Abbey chapter house!  I wonder where it will end up?

Cat's paw print from Glenluce Abbey Capter House

Pangur Ban? Cat’s paw print from Glenluce Abbey Chapter House. CC BY SA, Lorna M. Campbell

Univeristy of Edinburgh wins Wikimedia UK Partnership of the Year Award

Earlier in July I was delighted and a little stunned when the University of Edinburgh won Wikimedia UK’s Partnership of the Year award for the second time.  Delighted because so many people have worked so tirelessly and so enthusiastically to embed Wikipedia in teaching and learning across the University, led of course by our indefatigable Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew. And stunned because I had no idea we had even been nominated and I had the great honour of being the person to receive the award at Wikimedia UKs AGM at the Natural History Museum in London.  Sara Thomas, Wikimedia UK’s Scotland Coordinator, has a hilarious picture of me looking very surprised indeed after picking up the award, and if it ever surfaces again I will kill her.  Here’s a much better picture of just a few of the people who have played a part in supporting the use of Wikipedia across the University.

Left to right: Stephanie (Charlie) Farley, Open Education Resources; Lorna Campbell, OER Service; Ewan McAndrew, Wikimedian in Residence; Anne-Marie Scott, Deputy Director of Learnng, Teaching & Web Services. CC BY, University of Edinburgh.

The University was acknowledged for leading the way in terms of Higher Education’s engagement with Wikimedia and for helping to the develop the Wikimedia community and its work in Scotland.

“Edinburgh University is becoming a strong advocate of a Wikimedian in Residence within a university, spreading the message at relevant sector conferences, working with the University of Glasgow, and connecting with the Open Education team at the Université Catholique de Louvain. The resident is facilitating dialogue between the National Library of Wales and Edinburgh University’s Digital Library with a view to increasing GLAM wiki work.”

Ewan’s masterful way with amusing gifs was also highlighted for recognition :}

You can read more about the University’s award winning entry here: Partnership of the Year 2018: The University of Edinburgh 

What I did on my holidays

I’m not long back from annual leave and still wading though the inevitable backlog. There are a couple of posts I need to write about events that took place earlier in the summer, and the Wikimedia UK partnership award which the University of Edinburgh won in July 🙂  In the meantime here’s a pretty picture I took while I was at home visiting family in the Outer Hebrides.

This is Traigh Mheilein beach on the Isle of Harris which is reached by a precipitous walk up and over a slightly scary sea cliff.  I tweeted this the day we walked to the beach and was rather chuffed when Harris Distillery (they who make the gorgeous Harris Gin) tweeted it with credit from their account earlier this week.  Since people seemed to like the picture, I uploaded it to Wikimedia Commons where anyone can use it free of charge with attribution only.

I spent quite a lot of my holiday taking pictures for Wiki Loves Monument, Wikimedia’s annual photography competition, which will be running throughout the month of September.  Last year I raided my old holiday snaps for the competition, this year I have a whole bunch of new pictures to upload including  a 16th century chapter house, a cute little Arts and Crafts church that Anne-Marie Scott rudely described as lumpy and squat, the castle where my granny used to work, a Stephenson lighthouse, and the remains of an old whaling station. No strip clubs though….

Circular Records Hall on Atlas Obscura

I was quietly chuffed a couple of weeks ago when one of my photographs was featured in Atlas Obscura, and even more so, because the picture in question was one that I uploaded to Wikimedia Commons as part of the Wiki Loves Monuments competition last year.  See?  Good things happen when you contribute to the Commons.  You can read the Atlas Obscura article here: General Register Building of the National Archives of Scotland, and the original image is available on Wikimedia Commons here: General Register Office, Circular Record Hall.

I actually snapped this picture during a consultation meeting on the Scottish Government’s Digital Educations strategy a few years ago and as far as I ca recall it was taken on an ancient beaten up old iPhone.

The Soul of Liberty: Openness, Equality and Co-creation

Transcript and slides from my keynote at the CELT 2018 Design for Learning Symposium, NUI Galway.

The theme of today’s conference is designing teaching and learning spaces to facilitate active learning, collaboration and student engagement however my experience lies not so much in physical spaces but in online and digital spaces and specifically open education spaces situated within the open knowledge landscape. I currently work for the Open Education Resources Service at the University of Edinburgh, I’m a Board member of both the Association for Learning Technology and Wikimedia UK, and a member of Open Knowledge International’s Open Education Working Group, and all these organisations are part of the broad Open Knowledge landscape.

What I want to look at today is what we mean when we talk about openness in relation to digital teaching and learning spaces, resources, communities and practices. I also want to highlight the boundaries that demarcate these open spaces, the hierarchies that exist within them, and look at who is included and who is excluded. And I want to explore what we can do to make our open spaces more diverse and inclusive by removing systemic barriers and structural inequalities and by engaging both staff and students in the co-creation of our own teaching and learning experience.

I don’t want to get too hung up on semantics, but I do want to start off by looking at a few definitions. What do we mean if we talk about openness in relation to digital education and open knowledge? This is a question that has been posed numerous times, in numerous contexts by independent scholar and technology journalist  Audrey Watters who, in a 2015 post titled “What Do We Mean By Open Education?” asked

“What do we mean when we use the word? Free? Open access? Open enrollment? Open data? Openly- licensed materials, as in open educational resources or open source software? Open for discussion? Open for debate? Open to competition? Open for business? Open-ended intellectual exploration? Those last two highlight how people can use the word “open” in education and mean not just utterly different things, but perhaps even completely opposite.”

Like Audrey, I don’t have a simple answer to these questions because, as Catherine Cronin reminded us in her thoughtful 2017 paper Open Education, Open Questions, “openness is a constantly negotiated space”. It’s critically important to appreciate that open means very different things to different people, and that our perspective of openness will be shaped by our personal experiences and the privilege of our vantage point.

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Nudging the Door Open

Last week I presented one of the keynotes at the FLOSS UK Spring Conference in Edinburgh.  I had been invited to present as the organising committee were keen to diversify both the scope and the gender balance of their event, after a first call for papers brought in only male speakers.  Persuaded by the enthusiasm and commitment of the organisers, and after discussing the invitation with colleagues at the University, I accepted their invitation.  However after a second round of blind peer review again brought in only male speakers (thus illustrating the problem of blind submission in any domain that already lacks diversity) I began to get a bit apprehensive.  Normally I would politely decline an invitation to participate in an all-male panel and now here I was keynoting at an all-male conference.

I discussed my concerns with the organisers who once again were sensitive to the issue, keen to talk and open to suggestions.  And I was more than a little relieved when my inspirational senior colleague Melissa Highton, Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services at University of Edinburgh was invited to open the conference, and Christel Dahlskjaer, VP of Open Source and Digital Advocacy at Private Internet Access, was also added to the programme.

My talk was scheduled to take place on the second day, but I went along on the first day to hear Melissa’s opening address and Debian Project Leader Chris Lamb’s keynote.  I had expected female delegates to be in the minority, but I was a little startled to discover there were only three women in the room out of an audience in the region of around eighty people.  Melissa raised this issue diplomatically in her opening address which included a call for more diversity and inclusion in technology industries.

Although I get a little keyed up when I’m speaking in public I don’t generally get too nervous, however I was extremely apprehensive about presenting a non-technical keynote to an all-male audience of technical developers.  Particularly given that my talk, an over view of the Open Knowledge Landscape, highlighted the problem of systemic bias and structural inequality in a wide range of “open” communities.  In an effort to work up a little courage I did something I don’t often do; I called for back-up.  The evening before my keynote I tweeted…

To say that I was overwhelmed by the response would be an understatement, so I’d like to thank each and every one of you who replied to my tweet, I can’t tell you how much I appreciated your support.

I also tweeted a thread of all the inspiring projects and initiatives that I had included in my talk, because if you’re speaking about diversity and representation I think it’s really important to give credit where credit is due.  The twitter thread proved to be really popular so I might do this again next time I’m giving a talk.

On the morning of my keynote I was encouraged to see a couple more women in the audience, maybe five in total?  But it was still pretty daunting to get up onto that stage.  The audience however were faultlessly polite and engaged, particularly when I spoke about structural inequality and lack of representation in technology domains and open communities.

I ended by highlighting the story of Bassel Khartabil and the Memorial Fund that Creative Commons established to commemorate his legacy, because I believe it demonstrates why it’s so important for all those of us who work in the broad domain of Open Knowledge to come together to break down the barriers that divide us.  I always find it difficult to talk about Bassel and this time was no exception. I choked when I tried to read a passage he wrote from Adra Prison in Damascus and I was almost in tears by the end.  However I make no apology for getting emotional over such an important story.

There was only time for a couple of questions after my talk, one about business models for openness and another about how the conference could become more diverse and inclusive without compromising the integrity of their peer review process. During the break afterwards, I was really touched by a young delegate from the University of York who said he had benefitted so much from working in open source software projects and using Wikipedia, and wanted to know how he could give something back to the community.  I suggested becoming a Wikipedia editor and gave him some pointers on how to get started.  And I also really enjoyed chatting with some Edinburgh Informatics students who were hugely enthusiastic about the University’s commitment to Open Knowledge. Although there wasn’t a great deal of activity around the conference hashtag, I was touched to get one or two really supportive comments from delegates.

All in all the conference was a pretty daunting event for me, but it’s one that I learned a lot from, not least how supportive my own Open Knowledge community is and how willing other communities can be to listen to new stories and alternative points of view.  So I’d like the take this opportunity to thank the organisers once again for inviting me to keynote.

Last word has to go to the fabulous Kelsey Merkley.

Exploring the Open Knowledge Landscape

Transcript and slides from my keynote at the FLOSS UK Spring Conference in Edinburgh.

I’m not a programmer.  I’m not a developer.  And I don’t contribute directly to the creation of free and open source software.  I originally started out as an Archaeologist but I now work in the domain of Open Knowledge and more specifically open education.  I currently work for the Open Education Resources Service within the Information Services Group at the University of Edinburgh, I’m a Board member of both the Association for Learning Technology and Wikimedia UK, and a member of Open Knowledge International’s Open Education Working Group. All these organisations are part of the Open Knowledge landscape and what I want to do today is provide a broad overview of some of the different domains, communities and cultures that make up this landscape including open education, open data, open textbooks and Open Access Scholarly works.  And I also want to explore the boundaries that crisscross this landscape and demarcate these open spaces, and ask who is included, who is excluded, and what we can do to make our communities more diverse and inclusive.

In the words of the late, great Maryam Mirzakhani, former professor of mathematics at Stanford University and the first female winner of the Fields Medal, who sadly passed away last year.

“I like crossing the imaginary boundaries people set up between different fields—it’s very refreshing. There are lots of tools, and you don’t know which one would work. It’s about being optimistic and trying to connect things.”

So that’s what I want to do today, to look at how we can cross the imaginary boundaries of the Open Knowledge landscape and connect our different open communities.

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OER18: Listening to the voices

I always struggle a bit when it comes to writing OER Conference reflections.  I come back from the event buzzing with so many new ideas and connections and often with strong emotions too, and this year was no exception.  So before I go any further I just want to say a huge thank you to Viv Rolfe and David Kernohan for co-chairing such a thought provoking conference and to ALT for supporting such a welcoming and inclusive event.

The theme of OER18 was Open For All and the conference encompassed discussions around marginality, inclusivity, diversity, identity, decolonisation, and respect.  It was truly inspiring to hear so many new voices; Momadou Sallah‘s keynote on developing counter narratives of disruption and resistance through open practise was joyful, challenging and thought provoking, and it was a privilege to hear bold and articulate voices from the global south such as Pritee Aukloo and Taskeen Adams.  Other highlights for me included my colleague Anne-Marie Scott’s moving and sensitive talk on using open licensed images and Wikimedia Commons to raise awareness of Phoebe Anna Traquair’s culturally significant and deeply affecting murals  painted for the Mortuary Chapel at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh, Ewan McAndrew’s stories of student empowerment through engaging wih Wikipedia, and Nicole Allen gathering global voices to critique and contribute to Capetown +10. In such a packed programme I missed many more amazing sessions, particularly  Maha Bali, Catherine Cronin, Christian Friedrich, Christina Hendricks, Taskeen Adam, Jamison Miller, and Sukaina Walji’s conversation about ethics, epistemology, equity and power, and Nick Baker on inclusivity, diversity and what openness means to non-Eurocentric cultural groups. I hope my opening keynote, a personal reflection on the history of the OER Conference, helped to set the scene for these discussions and provide some context for where the OER Conference finds itself today, and where it might go next.

These themes of diversity and inclusion will be front and centre at next year’s OER19 conference which will be co-chaired by two women who have been a continual inspiration to me; Catherine Cronin and Laura Czerniewicz.  The theme of OER19 will be Recentering Open: Critical and Global Perspectives, and Catherine stressed the need to focus on moving beyond hero narratives and including marginalised voices.

And that’s where I want to pause.

We talk a lot about diversity and inclusivity in the open “movement” (and there’s a contentious phrase in itself) but too often the narrative we hear is still dominated by white male voices from the global north.  Some of those voices are not ones that I identify with, and I am uncomfortable being part of any community or movement that includes them.  Personally I really don’t care how significant a contribution an author such as Eric S. Raymond has made to the open movement if he also espouses views that are intolerant, racist, sexist and homophobic. We all understand the distinction between free as in speech and free as in beer, but surely we also understand by now that freedom of speech does not mean freedom of consequences?  Too often there is a painful lack self awareness and self reflection in these hero narratives and the definitions they espouse.  I find it ironic, for example, that one of the tenets of the Open Source Definition is “no discrimination against persons or groups”, when the community and tech industry discriminates massively against women, people of colour and other marginalised groups.

In his keynote on the history of the open source and open content movement, David Wiley said “not everyone can and will contribute, but that’s okay”, and while that is true on one level, there is an important discussion to be had here about structural inequality and discrimination. The questions we should be asking ourselves are what are the barriers that prevent some people from contributing, and what can we do to remove those systemic obstructions? How can we lower the ladder again, so to speak. And to me this is what openness is about, the removal of systemic barriers and structural inequalities to enable everyone to participate equitably, and on their own terms. It’s not easy to move beyond these dominant narratives when they are so all pervasive that we barely recognise them for what they are, and it’s not easy to hear the voices that they marginalise, but I have every faith that next year’s conference, under the guidance of these two amazing women, will meet these challenges head on.

CC BY @ammienoot https://twitter.com/ammienoot/status/986979802149244928

Phil Barker and Sheila MacNeill have also written excellent blog posts that reflect on similar issues; #OER18 Open to all but beware the wingnuts and Open Chasms – definitions dividing or uniting the open community? Some thoughts from #oer18.