Submissions/Birth of Bias: implicit bias’ permanence on Wikipedia/notes

From Wikimania


Birth of Bias: implicit bias’ permanence on Wikipedia
Day & time
Fri 11, 11am
Session link
Jackie Koerner, PhD



Jackie's work is in equalising representation in culture and history (re disability). Getting minority perspectives and voices into research on bias. Learning outcomes:

  • Recall the definition and the way we develop implciit biases
  • Identify way to impact impact implicit bias in your own life
  • Discuss the impact of bias on Wikipedia

We are encouraged to embrace discomfort! When we are uncomfortable, growth is happening. Discussing our own bias is uncomfortable.

"Stop trying to be good people. We need real people." Verna Myers (NPR interview with Myers:

Participant: We need to recognise that we are all biased.

What is bias

The stories we make up about people, places or things before we really know who they are.

  • "Dogs have owners, cats have staff!"
  • "Dog lovers care more about devotion than the intelligence of their pets"
  • "They have a relationship with their pets more than other people"

What's the difference between explicit and implicit bias? It's living there secretly in our thoughts - it's unconscious, your default setting. We learn it but we don't consciously realise we have it. With a conscious bias we know when they might be inappropriate and we should hide them. Implicit biases are sneaky and you can only see them by looking at your past situations.

How is bias a problem?

On Wikipedia it's about contribution and participation, behaviour norms etc. Women can be talked over. Creates gaps in content.


Ask questions to clarify intent, and follow the 24 hour rule when replying to something inflammatory. Try writing in a reflexive journal to reveal bias affecting a project/your interactions and decisions. Challenge bias, and be open to being challenged. Be an advocate for groups which might be excluded because of bias. "Ally is a verb."

Your Challenge for Wikimania! Go connect with someone your bias might tell you to avoid. (But nothing you are not comfortable doing!)


What is a reflexive journal?
Focused on the topic at hand. What are you feeling in those situations, what happened, what were you reacting to?
Homework - may be more dangerous for some people from marginalised groups.
Point acknowledged - don't go beyond your personal point of comfort.
How do you correct someone who suggests there is bias but is wrong.
Response from another participant - we need to know that we can't necessarily trust ourselves if it is implicit bias. We need to trust the person with less privilege and power. If you feel really uncomfortable about bias being suggested, you are probably biased.
It's hard to talk about implicit bias without talking about structural oppression. It's an asymmetrical relationship… the marginalised person ends up having to educate the person with bias. We have to talk about bias beyond our personal relationships and talk about structures of knowledge.