UE 141: Wikipedia and Free Culture
 Fall 2010
 Course Info
When: Tuesday, 11-11:50 am
Where: 257 Capen
Instructor: Dave Pape
e-mail: depape at buffalo.edu
Office: CFA 250
Office hours: Mon/Tue 1-2pm or by appointment
 Course Description and Objectives
This course will examine the Free Culture movement, through the lens of the Wikimedia Foundation's projects. Students will actively contribute to Wikipedia and other projects, such as the Commons, Wikinews, or Wikibooks.
Wikipedia, as most students are probably aware, is "the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit". This brief description sums up the two major aspects of Wikimedia projects, and of this course. Our goals for this semester are:
- to understand the efforts of the Free Culture movement to provide an alternative to the traditional copyright system, one based on sharing rather than strict control
- to examine how collaborative, on-line communities operate to create something useful
The only way to fully understand Wikipedia and its sister projects is to become part of them - to edit and add to Wikipedia, to participate in the community that lies beneath the surface of the encyclopedia. As such, it is expected that you will be contributing regularly, throughout the semester. An important part of every class session will be a review of what we have done in the preceding days; attendance at every class is, therefore, expected.
You are free to edit anything that interests you on Wikipedia, and I encourage you to explore the site widely. For a significant part of this course, however, I would like to tie our work closely to Buffalo and UB. Later in the semester, I will identify special resources here at UB which you will use in adding to Wikipedia.
Although most of the obvious work done on Wikipedia is writing text, images and other media are also an important part. As I'm a Media Study professor, we will spend a fair amount of time on visual media. Nonetheless, writing will still be important.
Note: Two things you should be aware of before taking this course:
- "Free Culture" means that you will be giving away, for free, the work that you do for this class
- Wikipedia has its ugly sides - at some point during the semester you may find a stranger cursing you on your talk page, or encounter very unpleasant images left by vandals
There is no print textbook. All readings will be from online sources.
- 50% - class participation (discussion)
- 50% - weekly editing - a mix of specific assignments and general editing
For the class participation part of the grade, each student will be assigned a reading, and lead the discussion of it. All students are expected to do all readings, and be prepared to discuss them and the work they have been doing.
Most of your work will be on-line. You will need to create a user account and inform me of it, so that I can observe what you do.
General topics that are expected to be covered in this course include (where "Wikipedia" is shorthand for "Wikipedia and other Wikimedia projects"):
- how to edit Wikipedia
- copyright laws
- how accurate is Wikipedia?
- general research methods
- Wikipedia and the rest of the world
- organization of the Wikipedia community
- vandals and conflict in the community
- other Wikimedia projects: Wikinews, Wikibooks, Wikiversity, Wiktionary, etc
- what constitutes "encyclopedic" media (images, etc)
 Policies & Other details
Most electronic communication for this course should be via Wikipedia talk pages. When e-mail is necessary (such as for grades), it will be sent to your official buffalo.edu address. Be sure that you check this address. Do not ask me to send e-mail to another address instead - if you don't want to use the buffalo.edu mail system, forward your mail from there to whatever system you do use.
Also, be warned that mail from free services like Hotmail or Yahoo has a strong chance of being caught by spam filters. Hence, I recommend not sending me e-mail from such an address, if you want to be certain that I'll receive it.
 Students with Disabilities
If you have a disability (physical, learning or psychological) which may make it difficult for you to carry out the course work as outlined, and/or requires accomodations such as recruiting note takers, readers, or extended time on exams and assignments, please contact the Office of Disability Services, 25 Capen Hall, 645-2608, and also your instructor during the first two weeks of class. ODS will provide you with information and will review appropriate arrangements for reasonable accomodations.
Plagiarism is literary theft and a betrayal of trust. The term is derived from the Latin word for kidnapper and refers to the act of signing one's own name to words, phrases, or ideas which are the literary property of another. Plagiarism comes in many forms, all to be avoided: outright copying, or paraphrase, or a mosaic or disguised use of words and phrases from an unacknowledged source. To avoid plagiarism, make it your habit to put quotation marks around words and phrases, or to isolate and indent longer passages, that you are using from someone else's writing. And be sure to cite the source, in a footnote or endnote, or within parentheses in your text. The penalties for plagiarism can be severe: from an F for the particular assignment, to an F for the course, to referral of the case to the Dean of Undergraduate Education for administrative judgment. If you are unsure about how to use and document sources, please consult with your instructor.
 Sexual harassment
Sexual Harassment of employees and students, as defined below, is contrary to University policy and is a violation of federal and state laws and regulations.
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment or academic advancement;
- submission or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment or academic decisions affecting such individual;
- such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work or academic performance, or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive environment
No university employee of either gender shall impose a requirement of sexual cooperation as a condition of employment or academic advancement, or in any way contribute to or support unwelcome physical or verbal sexual behavior.
Any member of the university community who requires additional information or who wishes to make a complaint or receive a copy of the University procedures to be followed for complaints arising from matters related to the policies outlined above should contact the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Affirmative Action Administration, 406 Capen Hall, 716-645-2266.
Examples of Sexual Harassment
- Sexual advances
- Touching of a sexual nature
- Displaying or distributing of sexually explicit drawings, pictures, written materials and/or computer (digital) images
- Sexual gestures or looks
- Sexual jokes or comments
- Pressure for sexual favors
- Touching oneself sexually or talking about one's sexual activity in the presence of others
- Spreading rumors about or rating other students' sexual activity or performance
What to do if you are harassed
- Trust your instincts.
- Tell harasser that their behavior is unacceptable
- Document the incidents in detail. Keep a journal with dates, times, possible witnesses, and other concise details.
- Tell someone about the incident and get emotional support.
- Seek advice or counseling.
- Inform school if behavior continues or of any threatening, intimidating, or retaliatory behavior.
- Assume the behavior will go away if you ignore the harasser.
- Try to deal with the harassment alone - get help.