Final Wikipedia Reflection


The article that I chose to improve for our Wikipedia assignment was for an entry entitled Afrocubanismo. I found it unintentionally, on the list of Wikipedia articles in need of improvement. I think I was drawn to the vagueness and ethnic flavor of the word. I had never heard of it and didn’t know what it meant, I just knew I liked the way it sounded. I admit, I chose to edit an article that already existed, instead of creating an article from scratch, because I thought it would be easier to expand on a subject someone already started. I thought the article might have had something to do with some sort of Picasso-esque, geometric African art, and I was pleasantly surprised that it was much deeper than that. Early on in the semester, Professor Hanley mentioned that we would become an expert in whatever field/subject we chose for our project, and for some reason, I felt the need to become an expert in Afrocubanismo.
Before my edits and the content that I added to the article for Afrocubanismo, there was only a single sentence of information on the page. While that sentence contained some pertinent information (i.e. that Afrocubanismo was a movement, that it was Black-focused, one key figure, and a minor time frame), there were so many questions that were raised when reading the entry that went unanswered (who were the major players?, what initiated the movement?, what were characteristics of the movement/art from the movement?).
I found the engagement with Wikipedia’s rules and conventions to be a mixed bag, with positive and negative aspects, but overall, I found the process easy, intuitive, and helpful. I had no problems with Wikipedia’s objectivity/neutrality policy. I found it pretty easy not to get heavily biased on in favor of a certain position. I think the reason is because my article was historical for the most part, so it wasn’t the kind of subject that involves taking sides. Although I did feel like there were many parallels between my subject and the political climate of today, specifically the mistreatment of Black Cubans in the last century versus the racial issues facing America today, this Wikipedia assignment felt like the wrong assignment to draw those connections. I do feel pretty excited about the prospect of ever writing a paper or essay comparing race relations in 1940’s Cuba to modern United States, because I’ll have plenty to talk about!
Wikipedia’s rules and standards were not that difficult not to follow, although there were some minor bumps for me. I struggled with knowing how often I should cite. Wikipedia says that you should cite any new bit of information that a reader likely wouldn’t have known. It was hard to find a balance between paraphrasing the source of information and finding my own voice. I also struggled with Wikipedia’s strict media rules. I wanted to include an example of Afrocubanismo art on my page, and found several great examples from Afro-Cuban artists, but none of them were in public domain. I tried to put up a painting by Oscar Garcia Rivera, a famous Afro-Cuban artist, and it got flagged and removed immediately because it violated Wikipedia’s copyright policy. I understand why Wikipedia has such strict rules for this, as it makes it possible for Wikipedia to exist by sticking to these rules. It is disappointing not being able to work around this.
Source finding was probably the most fun aspect of the project for me, and also the hardest part. Afrocubanismo is a pretty unique, esoteric topic; it isn’t something that comes up in the course of everyday conversation very often. Initially, it was a little difficult to find sources and articles for Afrocubanismo. I found a lot of resources about modern Afro-Cuban music, or similar sounding topics. Sometimes I found articles that were relevant to my topic, but were locked behind pay-walls, which is one of the most frustrating student research experiences. I did manage to find some articles, and eventually, after changing some of my search terms to be less narrow, I found a lot more sources. I think the lack of sources/readily available information is why the article was so scant and in need of improvement before I made my changes to it.
The peer review was contradictorily helpful and useless. The classmate peer review was not as helpful as the Wikipedia peer review. I felt as though my classmate may have been too kind, and did not want to offend me or hurt my feelings, so she wasn’t very critical of my sandbox, which was not entirely constructive or productive. I appreciate her wanting to protect my feelings/ego, but I always tell peers to really tear into my work. I’d rather someone find numerous faults in what I thought was a perfect paper that for someone to tell me my paper is perfect on the first draft. Luckily, the Wiki peer reviewer, Shalor, was incredibly constructive and helpful. She recommended that I diversify my sources in order to keep from heavily citing from one source too much, making my article more credible and well-rounded. A simple suggestion, but it went a long way for me. Shalor also suggested looking into the citations of the sources that I was citing from, which opened me up to a smorgasbord of information.
I also learned a lot from the reviewer role. As college students, and English majors especially, we have a tendency to sound overly academic, bombastic, and sophisticated. I think it tends to come off as stiff, pretentious, and impersonal sometimes. Being a peer reviewer taught me that there is a perfect balance between finding that academic, scholarly tone without being to dry and lifeless. I think this is especially important considering Wikipedia is kind of a tool for the everyday, common man/woman. It should be an easily accessible tool for anyone.
In terms of actually putting together my edits/information, this was my process. First, I read and researched. It always starts with a question: “What is afrocubanismo?” This leads to a dictionary/encyclopedic reference usually. It also leads to a bunch more questions. I compiled a number of sources that had the most useful information about my subject. After I read and researched my topic as much as I could, considering time/obligations, I started typing out facts, quotations, statistics, and all of the most critical pieces of information, and the citation for each. After creating a list of evidence/with citations, I reorganized those citations/facts based on how well they fit into the headings in my wiki page. Once I had a basic outline, & evidence for each heading/subheading of the article, I wrote all of the explicatory text and all of the text to bridge the gaps between headings, and paraphrased the information from my sources. This part of the process was the most tedious. I spent a lot of time making sure I had the right amount of information, that the information I included was relevant, and that I didn’t rely overly on my sources. 

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