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Video as Content

When you imagine Wikipedia ten years from now, what will the 'world's sum of human knowledge' include? Will it include images? Will it include banner ads? Will it be easily translated and sourced? What will be the new framework and how do our current understandings of the digital landscape influence the trajectories of the integration of new forms of knowledge into the Wikipedia space?

As Wikipedia struggles to expand/build upon its non-English language sites, current debates have focused on the various ways in which such text-based pages can be improved within a wealth of related content-generating strategies. However, this text-based approach seems a bit short sighted and epitomizes the West's attempts to force regions with culturally distant societal norms and preferences to adapt to our ideas of how knowledge is indexed, distributed and generally understood. I argue that video transcends language and that such current struggles as translation, access and the range of regional dialects can be leap-frogged by simply re-framing the question. Instead of devoting resources to improving Wikipedia's encyclopedic text, the goal should be to improve Wikipedia's ability to host all forms of knowledge in a variety of mediums.

Video as Sourcing

Another common problem for Arabic-speaking content creators is the lack of published materials of which to cite. English language dominance online has resulted in relatively limited resources for citing Wikipedia edits or entirely new entries. I argue that video could be a helpful solution. If every mobile phone owner is a potential content creator, they are also possess the ability to source and cite by recording events as they unfold. For example, instead of trying to cite a quote from a presidential speech, why not just record the speech off the television on your camera phone, upload it to YT, and then cite the uploaded video? This would not only improve the bibliographic-adherence of Arabic speaking content creators but would have the added effect of improving the nature of much of the content being uploaded to YT.

Mobile Phone Revolution

It should also be noted that video already exists on Wikipedia in a variety of ways. On Wikipedia's English language entry for "Islam", there is a 20 second video titled "The Kaaba during Hajj". Noteworthy aspects include the fact that this video was clearly taken from a cell phone. In a region of the world currently experiencing the fruits of the cell-phone revolution, each and every mobile-phone owner in the Arab world can be turned into a content creator. But instead of being limited to the archaic and sluggish Java experience limiting the video to less than 30 seconds, why not combine forces with Youtube to better integrate such a YT upload into the Wikipedia space? Perhaps YT could offer an option where each uploader could select to submit there video to Wikipedia tagged within a specific category or topic. Wikipedia is already equipped with editors who sort through text-based submissions and this system could be retrofitted for video as well.
(see MENA Gapminder)


Today's common criticism of YouTube's user-generated video platform is that the hodgepodge of uploaded material lacks definition and context. What better way to apply much-needed context than through a partnership with Wikipedia? Given Wikipedia's non-profit status and lack of financial resources, the potential for Wikipedia to build out its own video platform seems unlikely. But this is also unnecessary, as YouTube has already gone to great lengths to promote the embedding of its videos on a wide range of social networking platforms and general commercial websites. In effect, YouTube has already provided the infrastructure necessary to graphically enable Wikipedia to serve as a truly multimedia-driven knowledge destination.


Jerry Leach:

Former MENA Peace Corps Director & AUC Professor

Ethan Zuckerman:

Founder of Global Voices and Researcher at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet and Society

Milagros Rivera:

Chair of the Communications and New Media Program at the National University of Singapore

Pete Forsyth:

Veteran Wikipedia Contributor & Key Architect of the Wikipedia Public Policy Initiative

Mike Wesch:

Professor and Digital Anthropologist dubbed The Explainer by Wired Magazine

Full Length Interviews

(interviews conducted in November 2011 & December 2011)

The Open Video Alliance from Marky Mark on Vimeo.

Key Issues

“For those places where open source is important, how could we actually make it work in reality?” Michal Tsur,

“I think we need to figure out a system that lets us reach a mass audience of people with tools that are totally open and not dependent on any big company.” Holmes Wilson,

“For me the biggest thing is just making content free and getting people from across the world access to the content they want in the format that they want it.” Mohamed Nanabhay,

"You can have a situation where everything is open, all the APIs are open, everything is accessible, wide open and amazing. But if no one’s using it then it’s a moot point. It’s all about bringing it to average people who will use it casually.” Ben Moskowitz, Open Video Alliance

"I think we’re moving a future where everything is going to be reusable. It’s not going to go on 16mm film and end up in some vault somehwere. It’s going to be born digital and so people are going to expect it to be there and expect it to be used and reused.” Jen Mohan,

“The browser platforms have to become capable of playing and editing videos without reliance on proprietary tools.” Erik Moeller, Wikimedia

Advantages of Video
Distrust of the Written Word
Mobile Phone Access
Culture of Volunteerism & Sharing
Ban on Original Research
For Profit vs. Non Profit
Fluid Exchanges
Technical Issues
Wikinews and WikiCommons

This research was done by Corey Boling, a graduate student at Columbia University. Email him at

This is a sub-topic page, under Wikimedia in the Arab World.

See also: