Writing about a Film on Wikipedia

Starting Point

When I began to write for Wikipedia, I enlarged an already existing article about a film which is called “La Passion”, released in 1982 and directed by Jean – Luc Godard. When I first had a look at the English version of the article, there was only a header, the subpoints ‘cast’, ‘see also’ and ‘external links’. They didn’t contain much information. All in all it was only possible to get to know the names of the actors who performed in the film and who was the director of it.

My Contribution to the Article

I started by writing a summary of the main plot and then turned to the second level of the film, the tableaux vivants, which are equally important. Furthermore, I presented the two main themes of the film after the plot and tried to give a little insight into possible influences of the film. I added an enlarged bibliography and set references in form of footnotes in the text of my article. From the material I had, I only took the facts which I thought could be interesting for people who just see the film and don’t understand it so that they can get an overview of what it is about. In the research papers which were already written about it, the different scenes are described in detail and there are also connections to other important films and authors of film-history. I didn’t chose my material strictly according to the wikipedia criteria but just thought about what could be interesting for a mainstream audience based on the wikipedia articles I had already read.

Problems during the Working Process

While I was working on my article, I was looking through the versions of the article in other languages and found that there was a very sophisticated version in Italian language. This made me unsure because I didn’t know if I was allowed to translate and I was also asking myself if somebody had already written about the topic in a serious way. The topic of the article is actually connected with the topic of my thesis I am still writing and so I didn’t have to do much additional research in order to write the Wikipedia article. First I thought that it would be less time consuming to transform a part of the thesis’s content into an article, but the truth is that I still had to work much on it because the language of Wikipedia is different from the one I am using in my paper. The information has to be compressed in the article, which is not the case in the paper, where the information is widespread. For me it was very time consuming to find the information on how to construct a proper article, how to put footnotes and how to add pictures, for example. Once I understood how to do it and once I had the patterns, it didn’t take so much time anymore. The software in general wasn’t a problem for me, although I had the impression that the software for the Italian Wikipedia was much more easy for the users to handle.

After the Publication of the Article

After I had published my article completely, nothing happened. Then one week later, somebody corrected a little detail: he or she added the dash between Jean and Luc in Godard’s name. Now several weeks passed and only the headline “plot” has been changed into “overview”. I think that probably not many people are interested in this film by Godard and furthermore the film was released a long time ago. This could be a reason why my article passed nearly unnoticed.

Wikipedia’s Relevance

For me it was worth the effort to write the article as I learned a lot and because I had again to look through a big part of my notes. For other people it could be useful to have a look at the article, if they do research on films connected to art and need a first clue. The people who just watch “La Passion” for fun may also benefit from the article, as I find it very hard to understand the film by watching it only once and without having any background knowledge about art in general.

My Attitude towards Wikipedia

I can imagine to contribute to Wikipedia again but only if one day I will have a lot of free time. It is also questionable if I would write a full article then, as for writing a good article, a lot of research has to be done and it takes a lot of time. My academic attitude towards Wikipedia hasn’t changed, as I also used it before to get first clues for my research. The bibliographies at the end of the articles are especially helpful for that. However, the content of the articles is in my opinion only there to get a first idea about a topic and can not be cited in a research paper.

About the Project in General

I consider the project of a Wikipedia course at university in general an interesting attempt to bring research and Wikipedia together. Nevertheless, I think that students should be a bit better supported in their learning process in form of guided exercises, for example. It could also be useful for the students if they knew in advance that for writing a good article they actually should have some background knowledge in the relevant field. The search of the topic for the article might be guided more carefully, so as the students are able to know more precisely, where they could contribute. Without any limitations concerning the topic I imagine many students to be lost.

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