People Are Knowledge: The Oral Citations Project

“The Oral Citations Project is a strategic research project funded by a Wikimedia Foundation grant to help overcome a lack of published material in emerging languages on Wikipedia. The idea behind the project is a simple one. Wikipedia privileges printed knowledge (books, journals, magazines, newspapers and more) as authentic sources of citable material. This is understandably so, for a lot of time and care goes into producing this kind of printed material, and restricting citation sources makes the enterprise workable. But books – and printed words generally – are closely correlated to rich economies: Europe, North America, and a small section of Asia.”

Oral citations“In India and South Africa, for instance, (to take just two countries in the rest of the world), the number of books produced per year is nowhere close to, say, the number of books produced in the UK. What this means for indigenous language Wikipedias from India and South Africa is that there is very little citable, printed material to rely on in those languages; in turn, it means that it is very difficult for any of those languages to grow on Wikipedia. (There is a related problem: writing this local knowledge on English Wikipedia is a task similarly hampered by a lack of good printed sources).”

“As a result of this disparity, everyday, common knowledge – things that are known, observed and performed by millions of people – cannot enter Wikipedia as units of fact because they haven’t been written down in a reliably published source.This means that not only do small-language Wikipedias in countries like India and South Africa lose out on opportunities for growth, so also does the Wikimedia movement as a whole lose out on the potential expansion of scope in every language.”

Description of the project, audio files, movie and links to news articles can all be found on this page. Via Appropedia.