Wikidata and Wikidata Human Gender Indicators (WHGI)

Wikipedia is a central player in online knowledge production and sharing. Since its founding in 2001, Wikipedia has been committed to open access and open editing, which has made it the most popular reference work on the web. Though students are still warned away from using Wikipedia as a source in their scholarship, it presents well-researched information in an accessible and ostensibly democratic way.

Most people know Wikipedia from its high ranking in most internet searches and tend to use it for its encyclopedic value. The Wikimedia Foundation—which runs Wikipedia—has several other projects which seek to provide free access to knowledge. Among those are Wikimedia Commons, which offers free photos; Wikiversity, which offers free educational materials; and Wikidata, which provides structured data to support the other wikis.

The Wikidata logo

Wikidata provides structured data to support Wikimedia and other Wikimedia Foundation projects

Wikidata is a great tool to study how Wikipedia is structured and what information is available through the online encyclopedia. Since it is presented as structured data, it can be analyze quantitatively more easily than Wikipedia articles. This has led to many projects that allow users to explore data through visualizations, queries, and other means. Wikidata offers a page of Tools that can be used to analyze Wikidata more quickly and efficiently, as well as Data Access instructions for how to use data from the site.

The webpage for the Wikidata Human Gender Indicators project

The home page for the Wikidata Human Gender Indicators project

An example of a project born out of Wikidata is the Wikidata Human Gender Indicators (WHGI) project. The project uses metadata from Wikidata entries about people to analyze trends in gender disparity over time and across cultures. The project presents the raw data for download, as well as charts and an article written about the discoveries the researchers made while compiling the data. Some of the visualizations they present are confusing (perhaps they could benefit from reading our Lightning Review of Data Visualization for Success), but they succeed in conveying important trends that reveal a bias toward articles about men, as well as an interesting phenomenon surrounding celebrities. Some regions will have a better ratio of women to men biographies due to many articles being written about actresses and female musicians, which reflects cultural differences surrounding fame and gender.

Of course, like many data sources, Wikidata is not perfect. The creators of the WHGI project frequently discovered that articles did not have complete metadata related to gender or nationality, which greatly influenced their ability to analyze the trends present on Wikipedia related to those areas. Since Wikipedia and Wikidata are open to editing by anyone and are governed by practices that the community has agreed upon, it is important for Wikipedians to consider including more metadata in their articles so that researchers can use that data in new and exciting ways.

An animated gif of the Wikipedia logo bouncing like a ball

Spotlight: Open Culture

The Open Culture logo.

The Internet is the world’s hub for culture. You can find anything and everything from high-definition scans of sixteenth-century art to pixel drawings created yesterday. However, actually finding that content — and knowing which content you are free to use and peruse — can prove a difficult task to many. That’s why Open Culture has made it its mission to “bring together high-quality cultural & entertainment media for the worldwide lifelong learning community.”

Run by Lead Editor Dan Colman, director & associate dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program, Open Culture finds cultural resources that include online courses, taped lectures, movies, language lessons, recordings, book lists, syllabi, eBooks, audio books, text books, K-12 resources, art and art images, music and writing tips, among many other resources. The website itself does not host any of the content; rather, Colman and his team scour the Internet looking for these resources, some of which may seem obvious, but also including many resources that are obscure. Posting daily, the Open Culture team writes articles ranging from “Stevie Nicks “Shows Us How to Kick Ass in High-Heeled Boots” in a 1983 Women’s Self Defense Manual” to “John F. Kennedy Explains Why Artists & Poets Are Indispensable to American Democracy (October 26th, 1963”. Open Culture finds content that is useful, whimsical, timely, or all three.

The Open Culture website itself can be a little difficult to navigate. Links to content can seem hidden in the article format of Open Culture, and the various lists on the right side of the screen are clunky and require too much scrolling. However, the content that you find on the site more than makes up for the website design.

Have you used Open Culture before? Do you have other ways to find cultural resources on the web? Let us know in the comments!