[Foundation-l] [Internal-l] "Worthy Online Resource, but Global Cultural Treasure?" (The New York Times)

Béria Lima beria.lima at wikimedia.pt
Mon May 23 09:07:43 UTC 2011

*Béria Lima*
Wikimedia Portugal <http://wikimedia.pt>
(351) 963 953 042

*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 at wikimedia.org>

> Interesting press with direct link to ten.wikipedia.org. :-) Nice work
> Wikimedia Deutschland!
> Worthy Online Resource, but Global Cultural Treasure?
> By Kevin J. O'Brien
> http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/23/technology/23wikipedia.html?_r=1&hpw=&pagewanted=all
> 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
> for listing.
> “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
> Wikipedia.
> “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
> demonstrations.
> “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
> said.
> 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
> said.
> “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
> lists.
> 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
> a try.
> “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.”
> ###
> --
> Steven Walling
> Fellow at Wikimedia Foundation
> wikimediafoundation.org
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