Consensus, gender, and the political design of encyclopedic media—In a 2011 survey of editors of the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, it was reported that 87% of Wikipedians identified as men. This statistic flew in the face of Wikipedia's promise that it was an encyclopedia that “anyone can edit.” Despite early optimisim and efforts to reduce the gender gap, Wikipedia's parent organization acknowledged its inability to significantly make Wikipedia more equitable. My dissertation research examines how Wikipedia's trouble with gender arose by trying to design consensus as a means to encircle knowledge.
Encyclopedias are interfaces between knowing and the unknown—It is this character that makes them invaluable in investigating the relationship between epistemological controversies and the political desire for a better world. Building upon the insights from critical feminist theory, media archeology, and science and technology studies, my research investigated how the gender gap was cultivated through imaginaries, practices, and techniques for mediating consensus. This included producing a genealogy of encyclopedic knowledge, a design analysis of Wikipedia's interface and policies, as well as a discourse analysis of Wikipedia's gender gap task force.