UK students, librarians edit Wikipedia to the sound of music


Participants work at the Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon on April 10, 2019 at the William T. Young Library. Photo by Bradley Koster | Staff

Bradley Koster

The University of Kentucky Libraries and The Center for the Enhancement of Learning & Teaching (CELT) co-hosted the 2019 Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon on Wednesday evening.

The focus this year was on information gaps related to immigrants and migrants, but participants were free to focus on any other content.

According to Wikipedia’s statistics page, there are typically more than 1.8 edits per second, so the nearly 6 million articles on Wikipedia are changing frequently. Many of these pieces are brief, known as “stubs.”

Karyn Hinkle, an Art Librarian, used the book Reframing America to gather information about Marion Palfi, a United States immigrant who worked as a photographer in the 20th century. Hinkle then added her findings to Palfi’s small Wikipedia page.

“Her Wikipedia entry is very short and stubby, so I am taking a lot of information that I can find about her in this book and just adding it to Wikipedia, and citing this book,” Hinkle said.

Participants in the Edit-A-Thon were taught how to properly make these edits. Wikipedia can be improperly edited, which has led to debates over its credibility. Founder Jimmy Wales views his creation simply as a starting point for research. However, regardless of what extent, Wikipedia is often used in research. Thanks to the editors behind the scenes, millions of articles can provide valuable information quite easily.

“It’s very simple and easy to get started with,” said Kathryn Lybarger, a UK librarian and the event’s organizer. “If you have an account, you can edit most pages on Wikipedia just by seeing something you wanted to change, hitting the edit button, and then making the change and publishing it. Then it’s on the internet for anybody to see.”

While all this work was being done in the basement of the William T. Young Library, soft music played in the background. The music was actually the sound of Wikipedia being edited all over the world.

The webpage, Listen To Wikipedia, creates certain bell and string sounds to indicate the many additions and subtractions to the various Wikipedia pages. Changes in pitch are in accordance to the size of the edit made, as the larger the edit, the deeper the note. With every sound, another difference was made in this awareness campaign.

Trey Conatser, Associate Director of CELT, described the impact of Wikipedia today and the importance of the editing aspect.

“The potential is great for this event to shine light on stories that are critical to our history,” Conatser said, “but the ones that might not be broadcast the loudest.”