Please join us to hear the Executive Director of Wikimedia Foundation, Katherine Maher, in discussion with Harvard Law School Professor Yochai Benkler on the topic, "Will Wikipedia exist in 20 years?"
Notes from the talk
For the past year, according to Maher, the Wikimedia Foundation has been consumed by the question: what does the future hold for Wikipedia?
Wikipedia (the encyclopedia arm of the organization) has been around for 15 years and has grown exponentially since its inception in 2001. Wikipedia now receives 1.4 billion unique device visits a month and is the world’s fifth largest website.
Although Wikipedia is the most used aspect of the organization, Wikimedia also encompasses Wikimedia Commons, a gallery of freely usable media files, and WikiData, a collection of editable data sources, amongst other projects.
In 2017 Wikimedia launched the Wikimedia2030 initiative, which aimed to create a strategic direction for the organization’s future. The process involved conversations with more than 80 Wikimedia communities and groups. From the Wikimedia2030 project, the organization learned that it does not come close to serving the whole world, that it is still largely a global north project, and that structural inequalities prevent them from achieving their mission. In particular, Maher noted that though they have made some progress, the organization still struggles with gender bias. They also heard from participants that they need to adapt to both changing knowledge needs and new technologies. Maher questioned whether idea of encyclopedias themselves were irrelevant for younger generations and stated that many people around the world do not use search interfaces.
Based on the results of the project, Wikimedia has created a list of comprehensive goals for the future. These goals include building healthy, inclusive communities, advancing with technology, creating a truly global movement, becoming the most respected source of knowledge, and engaging in the knowledge ecostream.
Finally, Maher emphasized Wikimedia’s plan to become the essential infrastructure of the ecosystem of free knowledge. She conceptualized knowledge in two ways – as service and as equity. Wikimedia views itself as providing a service to the world – they want to build better tools for themselves and their allies, and enable new forms of knowledge through creative platforms, such as hosting oral histories and multimedia projects. Additionally, Wikimedia is committed to social equity. They plan to break down barriers to information and help bring forward knowledge left out by systems of privilege and power. Ultimately, Wikimedia is “embedded in the spirit of learning and exploration, and curiosity,” and aims to be an organization “that can help increase the amount of information in the world,” Maher concluded.
Notes by Donica O'Malley
From Wikipedia: Katherine Roberts Maher is the executive director of the Wikimedia Foundation, a position she has held since June 2016. Previously she was chief communications officer. In addition to a background in the field of information and communications technology (ICT), Maher has worked in the non-profit and international sectors focusing on the use of technology to empower human rights and international development, specifically improving communities, promoting inclusivity and transparency, and deepening participation.
Yochai Benkler is the Berkman Professor of Entrepreneurial Legal Studies at Harvard, and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Before joining the faculty at Harvard Law School, he was Joseph M. Field '55 Professor of Law at Yale. He writes about the Internet and the emergence of networked economy and society, as well as the organization of infrastructure, such as wireless communications.