Thursday, May 26, 2011

#WMFboard; an interview with Patricio

This years election for the #Wikimedia board of trustees has a very strong field of contenders. Not only are all the incumbents running, there are people with a strong known involvement often representing different communities and cultures. As I am interested in the point of views of some of them, I will be sending them questions. I am really happy with the answers Patricio send me. I hope you enjoy reading them.

Patricio Lorente y terra (sin logo)
What percentage of Wikimedians will be able to pinpoint Buenos Aires and Argentina correctly on a world map?
If we are talking about Wikimedians, I'm sure they will take a look at Wikipedia before pinpointing. Then, the percentage of correct answers will be 100%. Exceptions may occur in case of vandalism: many Wikimedians will confuse Argentina with Paraguay and Buenos Aires with Rio de Janeiro :-).

Nevertheless, other than believing Buenos Aires to be the capital of Brazil, I don’t think we are in the worst of all worlds in term of “International awareness”. There are many other countries in our region with great Wikimedian activity who seem to be many times invisible to WMF or other groups/persons/events in the global scene just because they don’t communicate in English. And, in fact, many chapter are more visible and “audible” than us because they feel more confident or are more used to speaking English. It’s the language that makes the difference, rather than the region, place in the world or socio-economical reality.

What are the next 5 subjects after Argentina and Buenos Aires every Wikipedia should have?
Whatever its editors are interested at, providing that all of them have the possibility to participate. What we have to do is reaching groups of people that for a number of reasons have been up to now excluded from editing or even having access to the Wikimedia projects’ contents.

The Argentine chapter has great relations with the Argentine press, how can this resource be best shared among all our projects?
We just have a good press team. I think that’s all with that.

The Argentine chapter is making wonderful inroads in the educational system. What resources are available to you?
Good public relations and collecting existing experiences are our best resources: as soon as we launched the Chapter, many teachers came to us, trying to figure out what is Wikipedia and how to deal with this kind of projects. We made several workshops and published a little booklet with creative approaches of educational uses of Wikipedia. With this background, the Ministry of Education asked us to
participate in the advisory council of "Conectar Igualdad", an official initiative to improve the classroom equipment and deliver a netbook computer to every single child in secondary school. At the same time, the Ministry launched a site called "Wikipedia in the classroom" with both practical and theoretical tips for teachers. We have always focused our work in this area. In fact, one of the main presentations of our Wikipedia 10 event was a panel by well-recognized Argentine educators and pedagogues who discussed about the possible educational approaches to the use of Wikimedia projects in an active way, that is, having in mind their dynamics and not just the current text that appears on screen.

What impact did Wikimania have in Argentina?
In the immediate aftermath, we sincerely thought than other than general press coverage the impact Wikimanía had had was not that significant. Nevertheless, as time went by, we started finding a whole set of interesting people --from government officials to educators and journalists-- who knew of Wikimedia Argentina as an established organization because they had heard about Wikimanía. Many people know colleagues who were in attendance or delivered a presentation at WM09, and that helped us opening many doors towards collaboration or partnership agreements, for instance.

There must be many more great stories originating in Argentina that are waiting to be heard in the rest of the world, how can we get them out?
We are trying to make our best to produce monthly reports in English, but we cannot guarantee it. And when we have to deliver rush translations, many things are lost in the way. I think the Foundation should do this work, allowing chapters and other groups to report in their native language, because we *work* in our native language. If WMF combines a global scope with a monolingual approach, then it is rather their problem than ours.

How important is it to put Argentina on the English language Wikipedia map?
I believe Argentina is already there. There are many people who speak almost decent English and who contribute there. And our country is an important touristic destination, so many native English-speaking people go back to their countries and contribute writing about Buenos Aires, for instance. There is a problem though with the less-touristy parts of our reality.

What role can the WMF and its board play to ensure that subjects of the "periphery" find their place not on a map but on a globe?
True internationalization is one key, and supporting local communities is the other. I don’t believe in this approach of the Global South initiative, opening offices with consultants from abroad. As languages are still being a limitation, many times WMF tends to identify contributors that speak English fluently as community leaders. And this is often a mistake.

Are the changes you seek as a candidate for the board evolutionary or revolutionary ..what change are you most passionate about??
There are many groups and wikimedians I want to make visible to the global community and the Foundation that today are out of the conversation just because they can't communicate in English. Far away from North America and Europe, English is a lingua franca only for the elite. True internationalization will be my biggest challenge. And also I will make my best effort to deepen the links we already have between our projects and the educational system.

If we look into the Movement, I think we should work to build better relations between the staff and the community. But none of these are revolutionary changes, I just want to address new problems and new challenges for our still young organization.

At we allow for the localisation in Latin American Spanish, this is not really popular. Is the difference with standard Spanish minimal?
Is not minimal but we can understand each other without problems. On the other hand, there's no standard Latin America Spanish: between Rioplatense Spanish (i.e. Argentina and Uruguay) and Mexican Spanish there's the same distance than between both and the Spanish language spoken in Spain. There’s a conceptual error about a perceived “Latin-American” brand of Spanish that has some connection, in my opinion, with the American concept of “Latino”.

One must have in mind that Spanish is a regulated language, where regional variations don’t overshadow the fact that we have a completely uniform grammar. There are less differences between any regional variations of the Spanish language than there are between UK and American English, or between Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese.

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