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About a month ago I was fortunate to get to go to San Francisco for part of my visiting scholar role. The intention of my trip was to go to the Patient No More exhibit at the San Francisco Public Library. This exhibit is a production of San Francisco State University and the Longmore Institute on Disability.
I was arriving on Friday at 10 am and staying until Sunday at 5 pm. The event for Patient No More was only from 1 – 4 pm on Saturday. I wanted to make the most of my visit so I emailed some friends and colleagues. After a couple of hours, I had a wonderful weekend planned.
This trip, of course, didn’t start without a few flight delays. After a lengthy delay in Las Vegas, I arrived in San Francisco with just enough time to go to my Airbnb, freshen up, and grab a Lyft to head to coffee with a few members of the Wikimedia Foundation staff. The coffee was just what I needed to revive from my 1 am start! We walked past the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It was incredible. Our chat was very helpful. It helped me reflect further on my own research and the Wikipedia community. I am very passionate about the community health work that is happening right now and their investment in the future of the community’s health. It really will create a stronger community by empowering contributors of all levels.
After my afternoon coffee, chat, and office tour, I headed back to change for the evening and headed to the Wiki Education Foundation offices in the Presidio. What a gorgeous ride it was! I passed quite a few painted ladies, and finally got to see the hills of San Francisco!
The staff and board at Wiki Edu are just as awesome as all the other wiki folks I have met. Thank you all for letting me crash your board gathering! I got to chat with others about the work I am doing, and started some collaborations while I was there. (I cannot wait to examine the lived experiences of people with disabilities in their career. It might be a long project, but incredibly important! Thank you, Helaine, for connecting with me on this.) I also met the soon-to-be newest member of the Wiki Edu staff. I am just blown away by everyone and the work they are doing. I really wish everyone well in their own projects.
I went back to my Airbnb around 9 pm because the Golden State Warriors were in town and slotted to win a pinnacle game. (They didn’t win that night, but they did win the championship!) My Airbnb host was amazing! Seriously, if you’re in San Francisco, stay there. It’s a very walkable location and a great place. It even comes with its own rescue pup, who is adorable.
Saturday morning I worked out and grabbed breakfast at a local dive with great reviews. It was awesome and the people watching made it even better. After breakfast, I checked out the International Art Museum of San Francisco. Once I finished the last gallery, it was time to head to the opening of Patient No More.
The exhibit is full of quotes and artifacts from the activists during the 504 protests. It was cool to see on so many levels. First, it was neat to see an exhibit about the history of one of the most notable pieces of disability legislation in the United States, second, it was great seeing another exhibit about disability, (previously my only experience was with Allies for Inclusion), and finally, I got to experience history all around me.
Let me explain: the main purpose of my visiting scholar role is to affect bias on Wikipedia regarding disability topics. I have a great desire to get speeches, letters, pictures, and other artifacts from the history available on Wikipedia. This would enable everyone to learn from these events, and experience the artifacts as if they were almost there. To be around people who wrote the letters, people who took the pictures, people who gave the speeches…it was powerful. These were people who participated in the 504 Sit-Ins right there next to me. This included Judith Heumann! She was the main organizer of the event in San Francisco, she served two US Presidents, and worked tirelessly for disability rights her whole life!
I was then talking to Cathy Kudlick, the Director of the Longmore Institute, about my desire to upload pictures, speeches, and other artifacts to Wikipedia. She then turns around and says, “Oh, then you must meet Anthony.” Anthony Tusler has been an invaluable source of information. Not only is he supportive of my plan, but he is willing to get me the info I need to get there. I have pages of notes from our last phone conversation I still have to act on. Hopefully I can make some progress once fall starts! I love the written word, but I love experiencing the audio of speeches, the details of the photographs, and the physical information stored in the letters. So much more can be learned from these additional resources. I’m stoked!
After the event was over, I wandered about town for a while before heading to dinner with a friend. It was a great dinner and we got to connect over some career concerns I was feeling. It’s always nice knowing you’re not alone! It is difficult when you are a creative person and know your path, but just must find how to make your path in this paved world.
Sunday I was on my own to explore the city. My Airbnb host had incredible suggestions of the best local places to visit. I literally walked down Market Street to Embarcadero, where I had amazing views as I walked all the way up the Bay to Fishermans Wharf. There I stopped at Boudin Bakery for some delicious clam chowder. Then I walked to San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park to get a great view of Alcatraz. After that, like any good chocoholic, my nose led me to my next location: Ghirardelli Square. There I got to see the historic factory and I had an ice cream that was just completely unreasonable…really.
I called it quits at about 600 calories in. No wonder the waiter gave me two spoons. Ha! Luckily my walk back to my Airbnb was 2.3 miles up and down the San Francisco hills. On my trek back, I passed Lombard Street. Even more impressive: I saw a person on a motorcycle going down Lombard Street! All the tourists applauded when the motorcyclist made it to the bottom.
After that, I finished my trip back and grabbed a ride to the airport. Another delayed flight, but I made my connection with 20 minutes to spare! On my flight from Los Angeles to home I got to see the Strawberry Moon from 30,000 feet! Pretty cool.
I am glad to be home, but my trip to San Francisco is on my top 10 list. I also have a lot of work to do! I am very thankful of the connections I have made during my time with this visiting scholar role. I am now looking forward to meeting new friends and gathering with new-old friends in Montreal for Wikimania in August.
When I graduated with my PhD in 2016, I received offers to publish in various journals and I even have a book I’m writing. I am not completely committed to any of it.
Believe me, in this world of academic “publish or perish” I am not ungrateful and recognize my privilege in this. Anyone would jump at this, unless they think like me. I don’t create knowledge to sell journals, magazines, or subscriptions for some publishing house. I create for my fellow humans.
I am not a religious person, so this is not in a religious sense, but I have been privileged with circumstances, biological and societal, that led to experiences that nurtured my critical thinking and intelligence. I don’t wish to capitalize on that. None of this is what I truly earned so it wouldn’t be right for me to make knowledge that is not for everyone to receive.
I am committed to publishing my full dissertation and any writings of mine on my website, or in ways where they are openly accessible to others. Granted, this might be a delayed release so I can publish additional material off of my findings, but ultimately I don’t want my creations to be behind paywalls. My work is so personal to me. This is my art. This is my activism.
I did publish one article in a CASE magazine, but was insistent on this part of the contract:
“CASE agrees to identify Author/Assignor as the author of Work, and also to grant Assignor in perpetuity a non-exclusive, royalty-free license to reproduce by any means Work or parts of it solely for Assignor’s own personal use or as workshop handouts if the following copyright notice is placed on Work by Assignor: Copyright © 2015 Council for Advancement and Support of Education. All rights reserved. Used by permission.”
It wasn’t as perfect of a distribution option as I’d preferred, but better than many publishers include.
So, how do you all do it? How do you publish and still stand for free knowledge?
Education is a human right denied to many. That statement of mine was an unpopular one with faculty members at my private, Jesuit graduate school. I was rather surprised, but I shouldn’t have been.
Free knowledge is a radical act. It is political. It is absolutely political to believe in free knowledge.
-Katherine Maher (Source Code Berlin)
This is why I spend much of my time editing Wikipedia. Education equality is my passion, my activism.
Wednesday night I got home from a higher education convention I attend each year. ACPA is an international organization for higher education personnel. Beyond an annual convention each March, ACPA provides professional development opportunities and various publications.
Last year, I attended the ACPA convention as a PhD candidate and graduate assistant at Saint Louis University. I graduated with my PhD in August 2016.
This year, I attended convention as an independent researcher and visiting scholar with San Francisco State University’s Longmore Institute on Disability. On the daily, I do independent research, submit my articles to publications, and I edit Wikipedia. In editing Wikipedia, I use sources available to me through SFSU to improve content on Wikipedia. I focus on disability topics, whether it’s culture, history, or adjusting bias in existing content.
For the 2017 ACPA convention I was a program review coordinator on the organizing committee. I also presented an educational session about attitudinal bias in disability and career. I also gave a PechaKucha talk about mental health and graduate programs. I was stoked!
That was, until I had a crowd of hundreds of people laughing at me.
It all started Saturday morning at a council meeting for the leadership of the state chapters. I talked about the work I was doing with San Francisco State University’s Longmore Institute on Disability and Wikipedia. At first, I was a little skeptical of talking about what I was doing in my group of professional peers, considering the mixed bag of responses I have received when talking about Wikipedia in the Midwest. The thirty plus people in the room thought this was pretty cool. I was super excited by their responses! I thought, “Yes! They get it!”
Then on Tuesday, I was presenting in a session with two of my colleagues (and friends) about attitudinal bias about disabilities in career. I mentioned media representation of self-hate of people with disabilities as an overwhelming theme, especially in movies. I mentioned Million Dollar Baby as an example, and noted although I had not seen it, I had read about its problematic plot on Wikipedia. A man in a suit seated at the front table loudly yelled, “HA!” I started at his outburst, then I laid out the logic for him. I told him numerous scholars are on Wikipedia, and commented on how funny it was he was attending a session about attitudinal bias and scoffing at Wikipedia. He turned red and continued mumbling under his breath lamenting the “problems” of Wikipedia. In interest of time, I continued with my presentation intending to catch up with him after the session. He left before I could greet him and hand him my card. The guy, however, was lucky enough to sit behind me in a later session, where I was able to continue my clarification about Wikipedia. His only concession was that maybe it “has gotten better” and a shoulder shrug.
That night, I prepared myself to go on stage to deliver a talk to a crowd of hundreds of people about mental health and graduate education. The evening’s M.C. mentioned I edit Wikipedia in my introduction. The crowd laughed. It was like they were watching slapstick or some incredibly funny cat video.
It hurt. It really hurt. After I got off stage, I posted this thread on Twitter:
No one responded, but some other Wikipedians retweeted my posts.
Evidently we still have some work to do educating educators about education. Sadly, those educators in the room did not know that very likely they had people at their educational institutions using Wikipedia in their courses. When I say use, I mean assigning editing Wikipedia as the course assignments, watching emerging events unfold as civic learning, and learning to engage in the scholarly community by learning to debate and support their arguments (and more…). Oh, and it’s been shown educators teaching with Wikipedia have students who achieve the course learning goals. (See “Read more…” below)
So, I want to hear it: what are your thoughts about Wikipedia? Why do you feel this way? I want to hear from academics, educators, scholars, and from other Wikipedians!
Thank you for those who came to my Pecha Kucha about Mourning a Dissertation. It feels great to share this story! Thank you to ACPA17 for allowing me to be myself.
I am also so inspired by my fellow Pecha Kucha presenters. What strength was shown on that stage! Thank you for sharing the stage with me and giving some of your light to educators everywhere.