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*Imagine um mundo onde é dada a qualquer pessoa a possibilidade de ter livre
acesso ao somatório de todo o conhecimento humano. É isso o que estamos a
2011/5/23 Steven Walling <swalling(a)wikimedia.org>
Interesting press with direct link to
. :-) Nice work
Worthy Online Resource, but Global Cultural Treasure?
By Kevin J. O'Brien
BERLIN — In its 10 years of existence, Wikipedia, the global online
encyclopedia, has amassed an archive of 18 million entries in 279 languages.
It is one of the 10 most popular Web sites on the Internet.
But is the volunteer-driven data depository an endangered world cultural
treasure worthy of protection, like French cuisine, the Argentine tango or
the Grand Canyon?
That is the long-shot bet being made by Wikipedia, which plans to begin a
global petition drive Tuesday to earn a spot on one of the world heritage
lists of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The bid, the first by a digital entity for a place on a Unesco list, will
no doubt be controversial among heritage professionals advising Unesco, who
tend to view online innovation as lacking the necessary effect or maturity
“Heritage professionals tend to be rather conservative types, or they
wouldn’t choose this kind of occupation,” said Britta Rudolff, a heritage
consultant who teaches on the subject at the Brandenburg University of
Technology in Cottbus, Germany. “They like to play with the past, and
something only a decade old is going to face challenges.”
The idea of landing Wikipedia on a Unesco world heritage list came out of
Germany, where volunteers have produced 1.2 million entries, second only to
the number in English. Wikipedia’s German overseer, a Berlin nonprofit
called Wikimedia, proposed the idea in March to Wikipedia chapters at a
global conference in the German capital.
The reception was enthusiastic, said a Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales.
“The basic idea is to recognize that Wikipedia is this amazing global
cultural phenomena that has transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands
of people,” Mr. Wales said in an interview. He said the online encyclopedia
had helped educate people around the world, providing a wealth of basic
facts, background information and key context.
Mr. Wales also said that one aim of the petition drive — supporters can
register at a special Web page, Wikipedia 10 — is to raise awareness of
“Of course, part of what we are trying to do is promote the idea of
Wikipedia as a cultural phenomenon,” Mr. Wales said. “Too often, people
think about us purely in terms of technology, when this is about culture,
high tech and learning.”
Wikipedia is hoping to earn a place on Unesco’s most prestigious list, the
World Heritage List, which so far includes only historic monuments and
natural sites like the Great Barrier Reef and the Great Wall of China.
Failing that, Wikipedia could aim for Unesco’s Intangible Cultural Heritage
List, a lesser-known directory that includes endangered traditions and
practices, like flamenco.
Getting Wikipedia on either list will be an uphill battle. It will have to
negotiate a complicated approval process and overcome the skeptical regard
of Unesco and heritage consultants to be considered for recognition. Susan
Williams, the head of external media relations at Unesco in Paris, said a
bid by a digital entity like Wikipedia would be unprecedented.
“Anyone can apply,” said Ms. Williams, who added that she was not aware of
Wikipedia’s plans. “But it may have difficulty fulfilling the criteria.”
One of the criteria for inclusion, she said, is that the culture or
practice be endangered.
She said that Wikipedia might consider applying for a third, even less
known honor, the Unesco Memory of the World Register list, which recognizes
valuable archive holdings and library collections. That list, however, lacks
the prestige of the others, which are funded more generously and promoted
more assiduously by Unesco and its member countries.
Mr. Wales said Wikipedia was hoping to set off a debate over the role of
digital innovation in world culture. While Wikipedia, which allows anyone to
write or edit entries, has had problems with accuracy and plagiarism, the
organization has worked to improve its editorial controls and to help people
in repressive or less affluent societies.
In Iran, where the government has periodically shut down or censored
portions of Wikipedia’s service, the online Web site is helping young
Iranians obtain information on health issues like HIV and has given some a
rare forum to post information and share views about recent anti-government
“I think Wikipedia is playing a significant role in spreading information
in Iranian society at the moment,” said one Iranian college student in
Germany, who is a regular contributor to Wikipedia’s Farsi content, which
includes 128,000 entries. The student, who did not want to be identified for
fear of government reprisal against his family, said that about 100 students
accounted for the bulk of Wikipedia Farsi entries.
Volunteers use pseudonyms when making or editing entries, he said, adding
that the site was well read in Iran, inviting censorship and periodic
government shutdowns during civil unrest. In the past three months, the
Iranian government has allowed access to the site.
“This gives us a window on the world that we would not normally have,” he
Similarly, in South Africa, Wikipedia is playing a role in providing free
information and learning materials in schools, many of which lack the money
to buy books and maintain libraries, said Charlene Foster, an organizer of
Wikipedia South Africa. The group in March began generating entries in
Afrikaans and Northern Sotho and will do so eventually in the country’s nine
other official languages.
Aside from providing local-language access to basic information, Wikipedia
is giving South Africans a chance to write their own history, Ms. Foster
“South Africa and the African continent has been marginalized in terms of
information and cultural value,” Ms. Foster said. “But Wikipedia is helping
us with access to information for education not found in libraries.”
On a practical level, Wikipedia will have to do more than just gather
signatures on a petition. Under Unesco rules, Wikipedia must find a country
to sponsor its nomination to either the World Heritage or Intangible
Cultural Heritage List. In the interview, Mr. Wales said he hoped that
Germany would sponsor Wikipedia’s bid for the World Heritage list.
Getting nominated for the Intangible Cultural Heritage list will be more
difficult. The United States and Germany are not signatories to the 2003
convention that created this list and cannot act as sponsors.
But South Africa did sign on, and Ms. Foster, who lives in Johannesburg,
said she was in the early stages of asking officials in the government to
discuss the country’s making a bid on behalf of Wikipedia for one of the
Even if Wikipedia’s South African supporters can persuade their government
to nominate Wikipedia, getting selected is by no means guaranteed. Winners
are selected by an intergovernmental committee of 24 countries. For the
intangible heritage list, those members include Iran and Cuba.
But Ms. Foster, an organizational development consultant, said it was worth
“We are realistic about it,” Ms. Foster said. “This has never been done
before. But we believe that the contribution Wikipedia has made is a good
argument in itself.”
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