Wikipedia Editing – Elaine Sugrue

I recently became a Wikipedian by editing a Wikipedia article on Helena Molony, an important historical revolutionary. Wikipedia, being one of the biggest crowdsourced projects on the web, allows any online user to become an editor of the project. This method is used by many digital scholarly editing projects including the Letters of 1916 which allows anyone to become an editor, transcribe and encode a digital facsimile of a letter. Though there are downsides to this method of digital scholarly editing such as the possibility that the untrained or unspecialised editor’s work will not be of acceptable quality, the methods of encoding and editing text in these mediums are usually simplified to cater for the untrained nature of most of the editors.

This is the case with Wikipedia which could not have been easier to edit, something which I appreciated considering this was my first experience of digital editing. My experience of editing was positive as the procedure was straightforward and I encountered no major problems. Wiki markup is Wikipedia’s own markup language and it is an extremely easy and comprehensible method of encoding when compared to the TEI guidelines which provide methods for producing machine-readable text using XML. Such methods of encoding are often used in digital scholarly editions in the humanities. TEI is ‘the de facto standard for textual encoding in the humanities’[1] and ‘is one of the longest-lived and most influential projects in the field… known as the digital humanities’.[2] By examining the TEI, it is it clear that TEI methods of encoding are considerably more labour-intensive and time-consuming.

I easily edited Wikipedia by adding tags. I began by adding references because most of the information in the article was not referenced. This was very simple, particularly when referencing a webpage as I could copy and paste the URL. The creators of Wikipedia have done all they can to aid the editor, even providing a button that the editor can click to insert the <ref> and </ref> tags instead of having to manually type them. I added many references to the article without encountering any complications because the process was very methodical, with the same method repeated for each reference.

I created divisions and subheadings without any trouble. TEI methods of scholarly text encoding demands much more of the editor, requiring the editor to insert <div> to encode a divide and complex encoding to specify that a piece of text is a header. In Wikipedia, my task was made very easy. All I had to do was skip a line to create a divide and encase the title of my subheading in equals signs, two on each side. When I availed of the show preview option, to my satisfaction, I saw that the structure of the article was much clearer and arranging the text thematically makes it much easier to locate specific information.

My final edit to the article was creating a hyperlink. HTML type hyperlinks are used in Wikipedia which enable to editor to create links between documents or certain parts of a document. One of the most famous scholarly hypertext projects is George Landow’s The Victorian Web which makes use hyperlinks to provide the reader with ‘information linked to other information’.[3] McGann has commented that the modern theory of hypertext flows directly from ‘imagining a noncentralised structure of complex relationships.’[4] Creating a hyperlink in Wikipedia was a very worthwhile exercise. I made the words ‘Abbey Theatre’ into a hyperlink which means that the reader can easily access more contextual information.

Overall, I enjoyed my editing experience and have acquired a useful skill. The ease and convenience of editing the article inspired me to consider the benefits of editing in a digital environment. As McGann has commented, for the editor, the codex form is seriously limited because ‘To make a new edition one has to duplicate the entire productive process, and then add to or modify the work as necessary’.[5] With Wikipedia, the text became editable in an instant. Editing Wikipedia was a rewarding, worthwhile experience which I will continue to do in the future.

[1] Letters of 1916 website [http://letters1916.maynoothuniversity.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/L1916_TRANSCRIBE_INSTRUCTIONS_v4.pdf] (accessed 23 November 2015).

[2] Lou Burnard, ‘Introduction’ in What is the Text Encoding Initiative? How to add intelligent markup to digital resources (Open Edition Press, 2014).

[3] The Victorian Web [http://www.victorianweb.org/misc/vwintro.html] (accessed 20 November 2015).

[4] Jerome McGann, ‘The Rationale of Hypertext’, The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities [http://www2.iath.virginia.edu/public/jjm2f/rationale.html] (accessed 21 November 2015).

[5] Ibid.

Before:

Untitled 2

Untitled 3

After:

After

After 3

Elaine Sugrue – MRes History

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s