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

“Fact Check Yourself Before You Fact Wreck Yourself”: A Primer on Information Literacy Resources

We have all fallen for fake news at some point in our lives and we can all learn skills to help prevent that from happening again. Technology can change our world for the better and help us combat the problem of fake news. Facebook and Google are increasingly incorporating fact checking and ways to see if sources are verified into their platforms, and we even have Illinois students working hard to solve the problem of fake news in social media from a technological perspective.

Snopes, Politifact, and Washington Post Fact Checker, are all great places to start. Plus, Snopes for example, has pulled pranks to make sure you aren’t too reliant on one source, which may sound bad but they want you to remain skeptical of all sources, and not become too dependent on one source.

However,  it’s more important to really learn that just because something sounds like it could be true does not mean that it isn’t complete baloney. My friend Jesse E., a playwright based in New York City, came up with a clever saying to think about before sharing any news stories on social media: “Fact check yourself before you fact wreck yourself”. Overall, you need to attain a certain level of information literacy.

What is information literacy?

  • Critically thinking about your sources of information, where they come from, and why they were created.
    • Even when that requires extra effort
      • Even when you are just scrolling through headlines on social media

How old is this problem?

Older than you may think!

The first fake photograph, was created in 1840 by Hippolyte Bayard, an early pioneer of photography. Specifically, in his Self-Portrait as a Drowned Man — a very meta demonstration of his photography process — he claimed he was a photography pioneer who committed suicide over getting overlooked for Daguerre and his Daguerrotype.

And of course feel free to debate or suggest more media literacy must reads in the comments!

What else hasn’t changed?

Statistics are still hard and people do crazy things with numbers all the time. Luckily, you can get a good overview of statistics and common errors here through our small but mighty non-circulating collection of stats books. And don’t be afraid to ask your wildest stats questions to our experts here!

Interested in becoming more information literate or helping your students become more information literate?

Digital Zombies

Inspired by Max Brooks’ World War Z, “Digital Zombies” is a hybrid online and in person information literacy scavenger hunt where players learn about and eventually make their own fake historical sources. This resource was created by history and information science researchers based in California and Ontario originally for students in the University of California system, but easily adapted to other locales.

“Sleeping with the Enemy: Wikipedia in the College Classroom.”

This provocatively titled article focuses on research done at Lycoming College, where professors decided to confront Wikipedia and online source use issues in a creative way, by having students actually write their own Wikipedia articles. This study shows a great way to get students interested in how sources are created and contribute to a source that the public often relies on for general reference information.

A great journalism LibGuide from FIU chock full of good tips can be found here at http://libguides.fiu.edu/c.php?g=626398&p=4374383 for those who enjoy LibGuides.

The Programming Librarian (ALA) has also recently put out a list of fake news fighting resources!

And of course our very own information literacy information portal!

SourceLab is a course sequence and digital history initiative here on campus!

And remember, Scholarly Commons is a great place to begin your quest for the truth!