Documenting language and culture: Wikipedia and beyond

Did you know that Wikipedia exists in 290 languages, and is growing everyday? It is intriguing that all those 40 million articles that exists in these Wikipedias are all written by thousands of volunteers from across the world. Wikipedia has become a real-time encyclopedia of the digital natives. But what Wikipedia and its multilingual versions really mean for business owners?

We ourselves being long time Wikipedians often get stumbled when one asks about the question about Wikipedia’s role for business. There is certainly no business model for the Wikipedia editor community or Wikimedia Foundation which provides a financial and technical infrastructure to the community to grow Wikipedia and Wikipedia’s other sister projects. But Wikipedia impacts big time on businesses — from local to global for any given region (if it is not banned in a country!).

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), an Indian nonprofit that is managed and led by business organizations has a membership and chapter model. The Bhubaneswar Chapter of the Young Indians (Yi), one of CII’s flagship wings that focus on youth empowerment, has always been keen on technological innovation. We recently conducted two sessions — one on Wikipedia in the regional business context, and another one on use of open technology in cultural preservation.

Wikipedia: Documenting the history of humanity in real time:
The first session that was conducted by Subhashish Panigrahi focused on how Wikipedia has a symbiotic relation with the world outside and the knowledge commons. Business organizations being a key part of this large ecosystem, and it is often critical that business owners have the knowhow about the way Wikipedia works. The lack of the same might lead to pumping wrong information which can lead to potential vandalism and a gross loss of time and effort of both the Wikipedians and the businesses.

Subhashish also emphasized about the importance of languages and the digital preservation of the same citing some of the works from the OpenSpeaks project.

Documenting tangible and intangible heritage

Like languages, cultural heritage is in stake. Many art forms are dying fast taking away the nuance that people tried to embed though dance, song, and whatnot. Prateek Pattanaik shared the journey of crowdfunding for the documentation of Prahallada Nataka, one of Odisha’s grandest performing art forms from the Ganjam district, and how he along with a small team managed to record 12 hours of performance of the same.

 

About the author(s)

Subhashish Panigrahi is one of the founding members of O Foundation, and founded OpenSpeaks which won him the MJ Bear Fellowship and a grant from National Geographic to digitally-document threatened languages.

As an educator and community manager he has led many research, campus, and community outreach and catalyst activities across Asia Pacific at Internet Society, Mozilla, Centre for Internet and Society, and Wikimedia Foundation.

Winner of the 2015 Opensource.com People’s Choice Award, and awarded as "Wikimedia Advocate and Expert" by Opensource.com in 2016. Speaker at TEDx and many international Open Source/knowledge conferences across 11 countries. Author of "Rising Voices: Digital Language Activism" “Digital Activism in Asia Reader”, and a few hundred posts on major global blogs.

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