ACTipedia: Resisting Digital Ageism at the University of Toronto Scarborough

On February 26, 2016, in collaboration with Concordia University's Age+Communications+Technology Project (actproject.ca), Prof. Andrea Charise's "Aging and the Arts" seminar (HLTD50) participated in the "Global Action Day on Aging and Ageism on Wikipedia" at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

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  1. The Ageing+Communications+Technology Project (ACT) is a research project that addresses the transformation of the experiences of ageing with the proliferation of new forms of mediated communications in networked societies.

    With the guidance of Ageing+Communications+Technology Director Kim Sawchuk and Postdoctoral Fellow Maude Gauthier, students in the University of Toronto Scarborough's "Aging and the Arts" seminar were introduced to the ACTipedia Project, one of several initiatives that explores how ‘digital ageism’ – the individual and systemic biases that create forms of inclusion and exclusion that are age-related – operates in subtle ways, and specifically on Wikipedia.com.
  2. ACTipedia is a collaborative action research project that aims to counterbalance the relative invisibility and lack of content on Wikipedia about current critical ageing studies in both French and English.

    As an ACT Associate Researcher, UTSC Health Studies professor Andrea Charise wanted to get her undergraduate Health Humanities students involved with "rethinking new media from the perspective of old age and confronting digital ageism"--major aspects of ACT's mandate--by putting their classroom work on age studies to use on Wikipedia's global digital platform.
  3. Skyping in to link colleagues in Montreal, Finland, and Toronto, ACT Director Kim Sawchuck and Postdoctoral Fellow Maude Gauthier kick things off with an overview of their work thus far on the ACTipedia project. We learn that editing Wikipedia to 1) decrease explicit and implicit ageism, and 2) increase age-related material, has been met with resistance.

    For more on this issue, scroll down to ACT's "Project Updates" here.
  4. After a technical overview of Wikipedia editing strategies and tips, the students of "Aging and the Arts" are ready for their digital intervention:
  5. Wikipedia entries created and/or edited in English included: “the silver tsunami” metaphor (aka grey tsunami or gray tsunami); Simone de Beauvoir’s book “The Coming of Age; age studies theorist Kathleen Woodward; Margaret Gullette's essay "The Other End of the Fashion Cycle"; physician-writer Jerald Winakur and his short story “Love in the time of Dementia.”

    UTSC students in "Aging and the Arts" also capitalized on their knowledge of languages other than English,
    to create pages in Portuguese Wikipedia ( “aging studies” (Estudos de Evelhecimento), “Grey Tsunami” (Tsunami Cinza), and de Beauvoir's book) and Russian Wikipedia ( "Ageing Studies").
  6. Six hours later: the #UTSCAgingArts team retires for the day, committed to monitoring their newly created age studies pages.
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