Wikipedia Editathon: A Spot of Spring Cleaning

A few weeks ago, I was required to come together with my fellow MA English students, as we were to edit a Wikipedia page of our choosing. The requirements were broad, so long as our chosen pages were tangentially related to our respective research interests.

One of my main research interests is portrayals of disability and illness in literature. While I would usually gravitate towards more Gothic texts, I wanted to edit the page for Kazuo Ishiguro’s Klara and the Sun (2021). The novel features some transhumanist themes, as Klara, an Artificial Friend (an android that serves as a child’s companion in a more isolated future) is assigned to Josie, a young girl who has fallen ill. Over the course of the text it is revealed that Josie’s illness is a result of a ‘lifting’ procedure (where children are genetically modified in order to enhance their intelligence) gone awry. Klara discovers that she has been chosen by Josie’s family due to her remarkable ability to observe her surroundings and mimic those around her, rendering her the perfect candidate to ‘continue’ Josie’s life if she should succumb to her illness. As the novel was published fairly recently, the Wikipedia page lacked certain sections, so I decided to do some general housekeeping before adding two new sections.

My first challenge was adapting to Wikipedia’s style guidelines. I decided to model my writing off of the closest article I could find, so I opted to use the page for another Ishiguro novel, Never Let Me Go (2015) as a reference. This page was noticeably more fleshed out due to the novel’s age and success and served as a useful ‘control’. In comparing these two articles I was able to take note of what my chosen one lacked. This was how I decided to add a character list which was noticeably missing from the page I had chosen. I decided to create an External Links section after finding some information which had not been included in the original article.

It felt strange to be contributing such a large chunk of text to a pre-existing article. My uncertainty about Wikipedia’s style was definitely an obstacle, as I tried to strike a balance between maintaining a style that was impassive but adequately descriptive. I also found it difficult to balance the amount of text dedicated to each character–despite the fact that Klara is the narrator, I found that there was little to say about her compared to the other characters.

I found that, while some reference had been made to the novel’s critical reception, there was no section linking to reviews, which can be seen on the page for Never Let Me Go. I added this external links section to make it easier for readers to find these.

Lastly, I edited the tags to include Transhumanism and Speculative Fiction, although, admittedly the Transhumanism tag was later removed! Although this was slightly embarrassing, it is always interesting to watch Wikipedia’s mass collaboration play out in real time. I had expected to make one or two mistakes or to encounter disagreements so I was delighted to see my character list and links sections had been untouched even weeks after their addition.

This exercise was an unconventional look at contemporary scholarship, and the atmosphere in class coupled with the requirement to live Tweet our edits was a welcome deviation. It certainly caused me to examine my preconceptions of research and to appreciate the Internet as a collaborative tool. It was enlightening to watch my coursemates Tweeting about their diverse interests and using their unique skills and knowledge to alter, improve and translate these pages. While certain corners of the Internet are fraught with misinformation, it is encouraging to realise that knowledge is more accessible than ever due to the combined efforts of countless individuals with their own specialised interests and skills. I would say that our class that day was a microcosm of this.