Matt Vetter (Department of English) and co-authors Jialei Jiang, Mahmoud Othman, and Mercy Muguimi, all former or current IUP doctoral students in English, have published a new article in the journal Computers and Composition. 

Navigating the Emotional Terrain of Wikipedia Writing: A Feminist Affective Analysis of Student Writers’ Engagement with the ‘Be Bold’ Guideline” interrogates Wikipedia’s gendered politics via critical analysis of a key editing guideline, “Be bold,” while reporting on a qualitative study of student-editors’ affective experiences as they navigate Wikipedia policies and practices as novices.

Despite being subtitled “the online encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” Wikipedia's editors are not nearly as diverse as Wikimedia, its nonprofit parent organization, would hope. In fact, the English version's encyclopedic community has long suffered from gender inequality in both its editorial demographic and its coverage of content representing and of interest to women and non-binary audiences; this despite boasting nearly 7 million articles as of 2024.

Educational initiatives have so far proven to be one of the most effective strategies for mitigating Wikipedia's gender gap, the common term for what has become the encyclopedia's most pervasive systemic bias. However, even within educational projects, engaging and onboarding minority editors is challenging.

Working from a feminist affective framework, this article reports on a study of student-editors' experience with Wikipedia-based writing, using their reactions to a key editing guideline, “Be bold,” as an entry-point for examining their affective experience. The “Be bold” guideline, which encourages would-be editors to “just go for it,” is nearly as old as the English language version of Wikipedia itself yet has received little critical attention.

Drawing on survey and focus group interviews from participants at the undergraduate and graduate level, this study's findings provide new understandings of novice editors’ affective experiences in Wikipedia while offering a critical analysis of the “Be bold” guideline.