History-writing in real time - Wikipedia symposium 8-9 June 2023

Call for papers

From its earliest beginnings shortly before 911, Wikipedia has documented history as it happens. Revolutions, terrorist attacks, earthquakes, fires and floods have been written about on the platform, often within minutes of the first recorded protests, attacks, and blazes. This practice of documentation, conducted by volunteers who are connected by shared interest rather than shared expertise, falls between the disciplines of digital journalism and history. What does Wikipedia’s coverage of events “that haven’t even stopped happening yet” mean for history-making on the platform? Researchers have noted that recent events are covered more than early history, and stories are more often presented from colonialist rather than local perspectives. More recently, Wikipedia has been uncovered as a site of both conscious forgetting and the “frenzy of commemorations,” a venue for nationalist propaganda projecting particular stories that favour particular ideologies and social groups.

  • How does Wikipedia construct history and collective memory?
  • Does Wikipedia enable the forging of a collective memory via consensus?
  • How are some versions of the past pushed to the fringes?
  • What gets remembered and what gets forgotten?
  • How can we study history-making on the platform?

In this first annual workshop of the wikihistories project, we will take stock of what we know and what we still need to know about Wikipedia as a history-making platform. We do this because Wikipedia’s representation of history matters. Its facts travel through knowledge ecosystems and rest as answers to questions provided by digital assistants, search engines and other AI-enhanced tools. Wikipedia’s claims to neutrality are more a hope than a promise, a guise that hides the dreams and ideologies of the individuals and groups that understand its power and are determined to master its form.

We invite Wikipedia scholars and researchers to participate in a two-day symposium being held online on the 8th and 9th of June. The symposium will be held for about 4 hours at different times each day to accommodate a range of global timezones. Please send an abstract of 250-300 words to michael.falk@uts.edu.au before March 17 (close of day anywhere in the world) responding to any of the above questions. We expect a mixture of both analytical and methodological contributions for the event which will be held annually for the 3 years of the wikihistories project.