On July 20, 2022, Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado) was a featured speaker at the Chautauqua Institution Summer Lecture series where he talked about the Wikimedia movement and GLAM around their theme of the "Future of History." Chautauqua is a long-standing American arts and culture summer festival that lasts nine weeks in western New York, near the Pennsylvania and Ohio borders.
The talk, "Free for All: Wikipedia, Wikimedia, and the Future of History," was a chance to speak to an amphitheater crowd of more than 1,000 attendees about Wikipedia's influence after 20 years. It introduced newcomers to community terminologies such as Commons, Wikidata, GLAM, and the Wikimedia movement. The video is scheduled to be released at a later date.
Coverage from the local paper The Chautauquan Daily:
The Chautauqua audience of about 1,000 to 1,500 on July 20, 2022.
The talk (slides) centered around introducing the term "Wikimedia movement" to showcase how Wikipedia's influence over 20 years has gone beyond simply being a compendium of written articles. To keep things simple, only four policies were discussed to explain why Wikipedia works and has been able to stay a top 10 website - NPOV, NOR, RS, and V. Images from Wikimedia Commons and examples from Wikidata helped show the trajectory of the projects beyond Wikipedia. GLAM was also introduced to the audience, showing how the most respected cultural and heritage institutions were partnering with the Wikimedia community to increase access to digital holdings through open access programs (such as with the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration and the Smithsonian Institution).
There was a lively question and answer session where people were interested in how the movement gets funding and whether it was at risk of having a few large donors be too influential.
Workshop and Wikimedia Space
Wikimedia Space setup at Smith Memorial Library in Chautauqua, New York.
Along with the talk, the Chautauqua Festival was interested in a more interactive program to accompany the public lecture that would be held in their local library space. Rather than trying to accommodate a traditional edit-a-thon for more than 100 people, which would have required laptops, a larger space, and many instructors, it was decided to run a more "self-guided" Wikimedia engagement.
This was a good opportunity to build off the work of the original Wikipedia Space poster-based exhibit created in 2016 for the U.S. National Archives and had been set up in the NARA Innovation Hub for many years. Fortunately, the exhibit had always been portable, so the color vinyl pull-up panels were rolled up, and brought to Chautauqua.
The next challenge was how to meaningfully go beyond the static printed banners and provide a more immersive and interactive demonstration of the Wikimedia movement. It was decided to add two main features:
Edit 2015 video, part of the main video compilation.
Looping video programming. This was designed so people could sit and experience some of the stories, people, and faces of the Wikimedia movement. This was deemed a high priority as most average users have no idea who actually writes Wikipedia, and the community behind it. Fortunately we had a 2018 Wikimedia highlight reel (Vimeo link) created for WikiConference North America, which is a compendium of the best videos from the Wikimedia movement, including "Edit 2015," an overview of the Armenian summer camp for youth, and how a BlackLifeMatters edit-a-thon helps improve Wikipedia. Unfortunately, since the Wikimedia Foundation and the movement at large has not prioritized video storytelling in its documentation of the community's activities, many of the best visual content date back to 2015 to 2018. Additionally, the last two years of the pandemic have prevented meetups and conferences, making recent visual documentation even harder. We also had a second screen with Listen to Wikipedia running, but this was much less engaging, as two running audio programs was too busy.
Five QR code scannable panels.
Interactive QR code stations. We worked on the premise that we could depend on most attendees to have a mobile phone. With the exhibit space in a library with Wifi, it was decided to create five interactive stations with QR codes that people could scan with their device to interact with Wikimedia content. In the case of folks without a mobile, or could not get QR scanning to work, there were at least two stations that had an iPad with the content loaded already, so people could interact with the device in front of them, rather than using their own. The five stations included:
Wikipedia app (Wikipedia). Directions on how to install the Wikipedia app on iOS and Android, and the benefits.
Wikidata knowledge graph (Wikidata). Visualizing Wikidata connections of dressmaker Elizabeth Keckley with a Wikidata SPARQL query and graph display. (Preloaded iPad available at station.)
360 Photospheres (Commons). Loading a Commons 360 degree photosphere image of San Juan, Puerto Rico's El Morro citadel. (Preloaded iPad available at station.)
English Wikipedia Top 100 (Wikipedia). Showing Hatnote's Top 100 list.
Wikimedia as a term. In my experience, this was my first large-scale attempt to base a talk around the Wikimedia movement as a core concept. I felt it worked well because the Chautauqua Festival and its regular attendees have a parallel concept, namely from the CHQ.org site's About page which states "...many new Chautauquas were created, known as 'Daughter Chautauquas,' giving rise to what was called the 'Chautauqua Movement.'" In this case, it was quite easy to map over what the audience already understood as the Chautauqua movement to the Wikimedia movement.
Hands-on engagement. We only had 90 minutes for the hands-on session, but about 100-150 people made their way through the space. Most folks were transfixed on the running 2018 Wikimedia Reel, which I believe shows an interest in the people behind Wikipedia/Wikimedia, and also the value of highly produced video content. It does pay dividends in forums such as these.
Follow-up. By giving the talk on a Wednesday, and staying the rest of the week, I interacted with many of the attendees casually in what is essentially a "summer camp" environment. Many said they learned a lot about how the Wikimedia movement worked, had no idea GLAM institutions were working with Wikimedia and saw that as an endorsement of Wikipedia's quality.
How does the community get its money? I mentioned the similarity to the NPR/PBS/public media model of many small donors yearly, and many folks confirmed they were indeed annual donors.
Are you worried about big donors having too much control? I explained that there are limits in place to ensure no one donor ever makes up too much of the income for the Wikimedia Foundation.
Wikileaks. Fortunately about half the comments about this were: "I know Wikileaks is completely different than Wikipedia but isn't that confusing to regular folks?" However, it does still show that in popular culture there is confusion.