2023 in review: A rivermap of our year

11 December 2023

Last year, we spoke about our evolving, blossoming collective. This year felt like watering the flowers that bloomed and tending to the knowledge and digital justice ecosystem that Whose Knowledge? is both a part of and helps build, grow, and strengthen. When talking ‘roadmaps’ and strategic planning, we came up with a different framing: rivermaps. What if we understood our work through the motion and stillness of water? Rivermaps connect us to non-human sentience, center power that is not fossil fuel-led, and step into directions that are old and new simultaneously. We embarked on multiple journeys this year, remaining agile and ever-flowing – we’re river-mapping Whose Knowledge? and what and who we want to be. 

Circles of community, circles of learning

As our feminist collective blossomed in radical ways, we brought that expansiveness to our broader community-building activities. For instance, in September, we gathered with Indigenous women from the Pacific Islands and the Brazilian Amazon to reflect on the Honouring Our Guardians program, and join the III Indigenous Women’s March: Women Biomes in Defense of Biodiversity through Ancestral Roots. The march gathered over 8,000 women from the 247 Indigenous peoples in Brazil, as well as international allies. We were in solidarity with our Brazilian partners — ANMIGA, the National Articulation of Ancestral Warriors Women — against the Marco Temporal bill, which put Indigenous peoples and territories at risk and has since been vetoed. During the march, we also documented the presence of Indigenous womxn for the #VisibleWikiWomen campaign. As a result, important articles have images now, like the biographies of Mónica Chuji Gualinga and Jannie Lasimbang.

Centering multimodality and the various ways we express ourselves beyond written text, we branched out into the world of podcasting. This year, we refreshed our Whose Voices? podcast website and deepened a series of reflections on multilinguality and languages online, which emerged from the first gatherings we hosted under the Decolonizing the Internet umbrella. On the second half of the year, we published another season for 2023: a series focused on Pan-African feminisms online, queerness, Africanness, online safety, and so much more — stemming from conversations that took place at our convening in Lusaka, Zambia, in collaboration with our friends at African Women’s Development and Communication Network. This was just one of the many partnerships we grew throughout the months, in an effort to build and strengthen communities in spaces we occupied, like the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and Wikimania Singapore.

We branched into developing a new community-building mode: learning circles. Such methodology is inspired and derived from talking circles or circle work, used by many Indigenous communities to share, listen, explore, and embody knowledge. We also take our lead from bell hooks, who tells us that “education is about the practice of freedom.” Our learning circles embody this kind of liberatory experience, with space for both individual and collective multidirectional learning, recognizing our diverse points of departure and arrival, our own power and agency, and our different paths. We hosted a number of them throughout 2023 and enjoyed every minute of them!

Our first foray was about diving deeper into the world of structured data, building on our virtual conversation from 2021 – Decolonizing the Internet’s Structured Data. Some of these reflections are captured and synthesized by our Epistemic Justice Research Lead, Maari Maitreyi, and their reflections on Wikidata and its robot epistemology, as well as our report on this gathering. 
Expanding our advisory circle for archives, we began connecting with a constellation of community-led initiatives and foundational scholars in the Liberatory Archives field. Our different conversations sparked learning circles and emerging themes: in two of them, we invited attendees — activists, community organizers, tech-builders, wikimedians — to “re-imagining the public domain”. You can explore materials that came out of these initiatives in the Resources and Reading Lists sections of our website.

The flow of people energy

In 2023, we have strengthened our journey and flow of people energy. We have seen how this has been taken up and given life and shape by a much broader set of brilliant humans that are committed to growing our work. We welcomed Sally Al-Haq to our team as a co-lead for the Liberatory Archives and Memory program, a broad container for reimagining “the archive” and “sites of memory” as powerful spaces and acts of resistance, healing, and transformation. After six years of sharing our journey together, our co-founder Adele Godoy Vrana transitioned out of her role as co-director. As we celebrate Adele with gratitude, we know this is a richly deserved new phase of life for herself and her family. These are some of the profound changes within and outside our collective and its constellations and ways of existing.

Prioritizing process and practice in collaboration

We often say that how we do things is just as important as what we do, including processes that entail deep collaboration and slower paces. In our Language Justice work, we continued to evolve the State of the Internet’s Languages report, with the International Sign (IS) translation, signaled by deaf interpreters and advocates for sign language Laura Lesmana Wijaya and Razaq Fakir. We started two research-in-action processes to look into critical language justice issues online: bridging the gap between language justice and disability rights, particularly from the South Asian perspective, as well as centering community values in designing language technologies, especially in Automatic Speech Recognition systems and Automatic translation of content for Wikipedia in Amharic and Tigrinya.

With our #VisibleWikiWomen traveling photo booth, we documented the presence and brilliance of womxn and non-binary persons in various events around the world, in Costa Rica, Botswana, Singapore, and Brasília. Based on all these experiences, we have carefully created a consent form model, available as a resource on Wikimedia Commons in English and Spanish, which synthesizes the photoboothing processes. In virtual spaces, we experimented with new ways of co-creating: ¡Alto! Mujeres Trabajando, in collaboration with Wikimedia chapters in LAC, encouraged participants to challenge gender stereotypes in the workplace. Ilustratona Mulheres Visíveis, by Wiki Editoras Lx, invited artists to create illustrations for selected biographies, especially black women of the lusophone world. And, for the first time, we organized an art and photo contest under the theme, “Unpacking body plurality in sports” as a celebration of the bodies of womxn and non-binary people in sports. You can find our winners here, chosen by a jury comprising Vic Sfriso, Kevin Royk, our Decolonizing Wikimedia coordinator Mariana Fossatti and #VisibleWikiWomen coordinator Sunshine Fionah Komusana. 

Rivermapping as Whose Knowledge? doesn’t end as we wrap up the year: we’re excited about the flow and the deep work coming our way in the new year. As part of our commitment to care and restoration, we will be taking a break from December 16 to January 8, but when we get back, keep in touch through our newsletter and social media platforms! 

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