New Maps for an Inclusive Wikipedia

Decolonial Scholarship and Strategies to Counter Systemic Bias

Bjork-James, Carwil. “New Maps for an Inclusive Wikipedia: Decolonial Scholarship and Strategies to Counter Systemic Bias.” New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia, (online first) 2021.


Since early in the development of the project, Wikipedia editors have been concerned with overcoming “systemic biases” in coverage of the world’s knowledge, especially those rooted in forms of social marginalization. Major campaigns within the Wikipedia community attempt to reverse these disparities, largely by focusing on addressing “gaps” in the demographics of Wikipedia editors and by writing new articles about people and topics overlooked by the encyclopedia. However, many Wikipedia editors and observers have argued that the systemic biases of Wikipedia are inherent to current global distribution of knowledge production, and can only be overcome by changing the encyclopedia’s standards of inclusion.

This article reframes this debate by comparing the project of “countering systemic bias” on Wikipedia with the effort within Western/Northern academia to decolonize and diversify scholarship. Since this project began at least fifty years ago, it has led to abundant peer-reviewed scholarship, all of which qualifies as “reliable sources” for Wikipedia articles. Anthropological scholarship has also overturned the social evolutionary narrative that often shapes popular perceptions of global history. The article proposes that critical scholarship, historical maps, and maps in contemporary scholarship can all contribute to addressing Wikipedia’s systemic biases. [Wikipedia; diversity; crisis in anthropology; knowledge equity; systemic bias; indigenous history; race; social evolution]

Article now available as published version at New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia (paywall), or as an accepted manuscript here:

Researchers without access to NRHM who need a citable version, please e-mail me.

This article developed from my prior talks at:

  • Wikipedia Day 2019, hosted by Wikimedia NYC, New York: Video of talk
  • Worlds of Wikimedia conference, hosted by Wikimedia Australia, Sydney: Slides from talk