Trent Oshawa Students Herald Women's Voices on International Stage through Wikipedia Project
Dr. Sara Humphrey's Modern Irish Literature Course leads to lessons in women's rights and technology
In the fall of 2013 Dr. Sara Humphreys set out to do more than expose her literature students to the great works of James Joyce and Oscar Wilde. As an assistant professor of English Literature at Trent Oshawa, she encouraged her students to push boundaries and share their literary research with the world - the digital world found on Wikipedia to be exact. Eight female voices united for this Wikibooks project and the academic and online communities both here and abroad are now standing up and taking notice.
This student-centred project was a multi-faceted exercise in collaboration, Wikipedia coding and research. Professor Humphrey’s served as a guide as the students researched and wrote about related topics including Irish feminism and nationalism. Ultimately, the students were hoping to elevate the female editorial voice in the predominately male-oriented environment of Wikipedia.
The initiative by the women caught the attention of Dr. Adeline Koh, an associate professor of English Literature in the U.S. and a well-known champion of women’s contributions to digital forums such as Wikipedia. She is currently spearheading the Rewriting Wikipedia Project. Upon learning of the project at Trent Oshawa, she shared its success with her own colleagues.
Fourth- year English and Cultural Studies student, Emily Dafoe, worked on the Wikibook. She feels the digital component of the project is a crucial to education. “Due to the growing popularity of digital work and collaboration, I believe it is important for Trent to embrace that as much as possible,” she said.
Katie Shaw, a fourth-year B.A. Honours student studying English and History who also worked on the project, added: “It was a chance for women to increase their representation in academic spheres. To see collaboration between these intelligent, talented women was excellent for me. It was such an encouraging, engaging environment with such great colleagues. It was like no project I’ve ever done in university.”
Prof. Humphreys is very proud of her students and their collaborative efforts to not only learn the course material, but to also gain the confidence to master a new technology. She is hoping to conduct similar projects in the future that unite multiple viewpoints, technology and learning.
“Just by identifying as female and adding their voices to Wikibooks, they worked to further women's rights and represent female and male Irish authors and issues,” said Prof. Humphreys. “If I do something like this again, we will include even more marginalized voices, expanding the scope of the project. It tells the world that the Department of English at Trent University is a vital part of digital humanities work, particularly in terms of social justice. We have many digital humanists, each doing incredible work.”