Wikipedia Is Working on Making Its Treasure Troves of Media Even More Accessible

10/03/2017 02:43 pm ET
DrAfter123/Getty Images
DrAfter123/Getty Images

What's your take on VideoWiki building a multi-media encyclopedia? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

Answer by Katherine Maher, Executive Director at the Wikimedia Foundation, on Quora:

We know that people are increasingly looking to new knowledge formats (video, audio, images, etc.) as a way to understand and learn about the world around them. I’m not very familiar with VideoWiki, but I do know that there are a lot of people doing great work with educational video - from individual YouTubers to the Khan Academy. But I can speak more to what we’re doing at Wikimedia already around multimedia, and where we hope to go next.

While Wikipedia is known for being mostly text and links, you’ll often find that the articles are illustrated with beautiful photographs and illustrations (and often, for scientific and mathematical entries, illustrative GIFs and videos). Almost all of these multimedia files come from Wikipedia’s “sister” project, Wikimedia Commons. Commons is the largest freely licensed educational media site in the world, and has around as many media files (images, video, audio, with 3D soon to come) as Wikipedia has articles across all of our languages - 41 million and growing!

I’m a big believer that the rich media in Wikimedia Commons is a wonderful complement to the already great text-based content on Wikipedia. There are many concepts that are easier to grasp when you can look or listen (or print and model!) something. Audio and video also broadens and eases learning for those with lower literacy, vision impairments, or non-native language speakers.

As such, the Wikimedia Foundation is currently working on integrating our structured data project, Wikidata, into Wikimedia Commons, to make its images and media files more readily searchable and accessible across the web - and eventually, easier to integrate into Wikipedia itself.

Will Wikipedia ever move completely to video-only format? Probably not. Text is an important way of capturing and imparting information, and it’s still easier to collaborate on writing a paragraph or cite a sentence than it is to make a collaborative video. But that’s okay. Learning happens through such a variety of ways, and is different for everyone. Our goal is making sure Wikipedia continues to evolve to serve these different learning needs, and make knowledge more easily accessible to all. In the meantime, we’ll watch other initiatives with great interest.

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