Improving content and activating online collaborative dynamics

Wikipedia is a very powerful source of information with 500 million readers and it is at the centre of many studies which explore its content, community and data; the approach of the Laboratory of visual culture at the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Southern Switzerland (SUPSI) is unique in its capacity of cooperating with the online community, actively intervene on Wikipedia with pilot applied research projects shared with the online community and valorizing research results and data produced by research on Wikipedia, the Wikimedia projects (in particular Wikidata and Wikimedia Commons) and OpenStreetMap. More specifically we have successfully tested the involvement of scholars in contributing to improve the quality of Wikipedia through external reviews (Wikipedia Primary School); we have developed a methodology to monitor content related to primary school on Wikipedia (Wikipedia Primary School and WikiAfrica Primary School Feasibility Study), we have produced a series of visualizations which allows to monitor the cooperation between GLAMs (galleries, libraries, archives and museums) and Wikipedia (GLAM visual tool), testing communication strategies and tools (What is about – C’est quoi. A series of communication tools about Wikipedia. Cameroon pilot project). Previously I have tested and reported on how to upload 30’000 images and texts related to Africa on the Wikimedia projects by triggering the participation of institutions and communities (WikiAfrica); I have involved 100 institutions in cooperating with Wikipedia by producing guidelines and a methodology to apply the Creative Commons licenses to different kind of content and procedures  (Share Your Knowledge and The Alps on Wikipedia). Articles and conferences related highlight online community dynamics, the geographic imbalance of Wikipedia, the role and potential role of scholars and the power of Wikipedia and its nationalism. My research on Wikipedia also lead to a campaign for freedom of panorama in Italy (Italian cultural heritage on the Wikimedia projects) and to the organisation of Wikimania Esino Lario, the world Wikipedia conference organized in a mountain village, organized with the aim of demonstrating that anyone – really anywhere – can contribute to Wikipedia and free knowledge (the conference is normally organized in major cities and universities such as Washington DC, Harvard, Hong Kong, London); the conference was a very complex event, experimental and considered an innovative best practice in collaborative online and offline dynamics and territorial development.

Main publications about Wikipedia

  • Pensa, Iolanda (2017). The need to contribute to Wikipedia. The improbability of an African Wikipedian in Strategic Narratives of Technology and Africa, hosted by the Critical Technical Practice laboratory at the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute in Funchal, Portugal, 02/09/2017.
  • Pensa, Iolanda (2012). The Power of Wikipedia: Legitimacy and Control in “PMS Reader Power Money Sex”, Chimurenga and Open Society Institute of Southern Africa. Englishoriginal version in English.



  • Where People are Knowledge in Chimurenga Chronicle 18-24 May 2008, Another Section* Media & Technology/People are Knowledge, October 2011 (predated 18-24 May 2008), p. 11.
  • La bibliothèque de Chimurenga in The Chimurenga Library: An Introspective of Chimurenga Magazine, Cape Town Platform, 2009, pp. 4-6.
  • Share Your African Knowledge in “Open Knowledge Foundation Blog”, 09/11/2011. English.
  • Wikimania: Wikipedia In Real Life: A design report in “Domus online”, 08/08/2011. English, italiano.


  • Share Your Knowledge, Festival del cinema africano, dell’Asia e dell’America Latina, Milano, 25/03/2012.
  • Share Your Knowledge: Creative Commons e Wikipedia per le istituzioni culturali. Un progetto promosso dalla Fondazione lettera27 anche a Milano in Open data: i primi passi verso Milano Città Digitale, Università Bicocca, Milano, 14(03/2012.
  • Share Your Knowledge: Wikipedia e Creative Commons per le istituzioni culturali, Fondazione Cariplo, Milano, 30/11/2011, 21/12/2011.
  • Share Your Knowledge: Creative Commons e Wikipedia per le istituzioni culturali, Creative Commons Italia, Conference of NEXA Research Centre, Torino, 17/12/2011.
  • Wikipedia, licenze libere e Africa, WikiAfrica Workshop, Libreria Griot, Roma, 06/10/2010.
  • Mobile A2K, Festival Afripixel, Dakar, 05/2010.
  • Narrazione e beni culturali, conference curated by HoldenArt, DNA Italia-Salone italiano dei beni culturali, Torino, 1-3/10/ 2010.
  • La sfida del contemporaneo: l’arte del nostro tempo accessibile a tutti, round table by zonArte, curated by the educational departments of Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, PAV, GAM, Castello di Rivoli, Cittadellarte/Fondazione Pistoletto and Fondazione Merz, Fondazione Merz, Torino, 28/04/2010.
  • Mobile A2K e la valigia pedagogica, radio programme Mondo Nerd, 03/03/2010.
  • WikiAfrica con la selezione audio della Pan African Space Radio di Cape Town, Programme Chiodo Fisso, 10′, Radio3, 02/2010.
  • WikiAfrica e la Fondazione lettera27 Onlus, myDetour 5×5, La Feltrinelli di Piazza Piemonte, Milano, 08/04/2009.
  • WikiAfrica, National training Educational Manager, Cittadellarte, Biella, 06/2009.
  • lettera27 e WikiAfrica, youdem TV digitale, 12/03/2009.
  • Entretien de Marian Nur Goni avec Iolanda Pensa, directrice scientifique WikiAfrica in “Africultures”, 10/03/09, 17/03/09, 24/03/09.
  • WikiAfrica, Designism 3.0, Arts Directors Club, New York, 02/10/2008.
  • WikiAfrica, LitCam, Fiera del Libro di Francoforte, 09/10/2007.
  • Wikipedia e Copyleft, Ars&Urbis Curatorial Meeting, Douala, Camerun, 01/2009.
  • Wikipédia et WikiAfrica, presentation, doual’art, Douala, Camerun, 15/03/2007.

My profile on meta with all Wikipedia-related publications, conferences, project and initiatives.