Field notes: Decolonizing the Internet 2018 and Wikimania 2018

Wikimania panel capetown.jpg

Earlier this month, members of Equality Labs headed to Cape Town to attended the Decolonizing the Internet 2018 and Wikimania 2018. Organized by our allies and friends at Whose Knowledge?, Decolonize the Internet is “the first ever conference about centering marginalized knowledge online!” and is geared towards making the internet more inclusive and diverse by affecting change in internet governance, design and content.

We sat down with  activists and researchers from around the world to discuss what it means  to represent our communities online. We shared our own experiences as Dalit Wikipedia editors and discussed strategies for building and learning together in the coming months.  

Critically, our explorations revealed to us the limitations of representing broader truths on oppressor founded platforms and we think it’s time to really think about what places created and represented by marginalized people could look like and how it could change the way the Internet itself could look and function. 

Following this, we headed to Wikimania 2018 where Equality Labs’  Executive Director, Thenmozhi Soundararajan was on a panel titled, “Centering Voices from the Margins”. 

The panel also featured Stan Rodriguez, Kumeyaay linguist and musician, Persephone Lewis of the Yomba band of the Shoshone tribe, Professor of Practice and Tribal Liaison at University of San Diego, Kelly Foster, a founding member of AfroCROWD UK and Dumisani Ndubane, South African engineer and Xitsonga Wikipedian. The panel was moderated by Siko Bourtese of Whose Knowledge?.

The panelists  spoke passionately about the struggles of their peoples to be respectfully and rightfully represented on Wikimedia platforms. This was one of the first times that Dalit Wikimedians were present in these spaces and a crucial observation included that delegations from South Asia were otherwise almost exclusively Oppressor-caste led and populated. For us, as a Dalit delegation, this was also indicative of the fact that for some groups of marginalized peoples are not only battling white supremacy, but also internal hegemonies like Caste which has historically obstructed our knowledge creation. Because of this,  its crucial to move beyond just abstract, often superficial ideas of "diversity" and really delve into what decolonizations mean in the context of equal access to online and offline spaces .