Adding to knowledge bank on natural world in Wiki

A Wikipedia workshop, focussing on articles about the natural world, was held on Saturday—Photo: Special Arrangement  

Run a Wikipedia search for the bird glossy ibis, and you will hardly find any content from Asia, where it is widely sighted. Or go to the page on Vedanthangal bird sanctuary, and the list of birds given does not cite an authentic source. A workshop on contributing to Wikipedia, being organised by Wikimedia India and Madras Naturalists Society, at Tamil Virtual Academy here saw lively discussions on many such topics on Saturday.

The workshop, focussing on articles on the natural world, also gave the participants a broad idea of what Wikipedia stands for and its importance as a democratic space for knowledge sharing. The session had 20 participants from various spheres, ranging from college professors and environmental activists to lawyers and choir singers, all sharing a love for nature. “It was a pleasant surprise that a majority of participants were women,” said Subramanian Sankar, coordinator of the event.

“As a teacher I have always wanted to improve content in Wikipedia but just did not know how to. I got very valuable insight into how it works. I am also happy to see so many women here. It shows their positive contribution to knowledge sharing and gender equality,” said Benitha Golda, Assistant Professor, Women’s Christian College.

Speaker Shyamal, a nature enthusiast, who has been associated with Wikipedia almost from its start, elaborated on the need to be cautious of the perceived infallibility of the printed word, verifiability of sources cited in Wikipedia articles and the concept of information literacy.

He demonstrated how to edit content on the collaboratively written online encyclopaedia by updating the list of water-breeding birds in the Vedanthangal sanctuary, complete with an authentic citation. On citing Wikipedia in research papers, Mr. Shyamal said the resource, or any encyclopaedia for that matter, was only a tertiary source of information and could not be considered authoritative on a subject.

“Everything in Wikipedia is incremental; you don’t have aim for perfectionism while contributing,” he said. The forenoon session also discussed copyright and trademarks.

K.A. Subramanian, a scientist with the Zoological Survey of India, said, “I could update a lot on the history and activities of my organisation on its page.”

The workshop will conclude on Sunday.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 6:37:09 AM |

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