Raina Wellman


My experiences contributing to the internet, attending Wikipedia Edit-A-Thons, and my many questions and concerns led me to develop the framework for an event in which people are invited to explore their participation online. This seed of an idea led to the creation of my workshop, “Feeding the Internet Generously,” in which attendees were invited to feed the internet with content and to consider their involvement online.

For my workshop, I wanted to bring people together to discuss the ways that they use and contribute to the internet, both casually and intentionally. I wanted participants to consider the ways in which they are and are not compensated for the labours that they perform online. The event was meant to serve as a space for discussing and contributing to the diverse online platforms that make up social media, provide art and design resources, and aid in academic research.

One participant at the event with my “Feeding the Internet Generously Booklets” filling out a questioneer after completing their chosen online contribution.
Our time online has, quite obviously, completely changed the ways that we communicate, research, work, and make. The internet, rich and random, is a place of good and bad, control and chaos.
Our connections, particularly over social media, give advertisers and brands a rich opportunity to invade and influence. The complexities of data collection and corporate capitalism are embedded into digital use, but our time online also gives us the opportunity to access and share incredible resources. The internet is a tangled space with a great deal of intricate problems. Among these interconnected issues are equitability and compensation.
I began contributing to and considering several internet platforms on my own. I shared 100 chair icons I created on the Noun Project platform, interviewed and edited with Wikipedians, and consistently shared using social networking sites including Instagram and Facebook.

For attendees I provided information on how to contribute to more complicated platforms, like Wikipedia. Participants received an internet feeding guide, snacks, and a riso printed “I Fed the Internet Generously” poster. In addition to providing this compensation and information, I also worked to facilitate a conversation on the ways that we can engage with and productively critique the online platforms we use to share information, academic knowledge, and creative assets.

The internet feeding guide provided information on contributing to Giphy, the Noun Project, and Wikipedia as well as some of my thoughts on the processes of internet contribution.
From person to person, online presence and engagement varies. Some of us are active contributors, others casual users. When you Google a friend you might find nothing, or you could find several social media profiles, high school athletic records, articles they’ve authored, posts they’ve made, mysterious sites listing their home addresses, links they’ve clicked, and comments they’ve made.

Above, riso-printed posters I gave to people who participated in my event, “Feeding the Internet Generously.”

Above, a peek inside the workshop guidebook.

Hosting the event at the Fleet Library at the Rhode Island School of Design allowed me to access several groups of people I was particularly interested in hearing feedback from. Artists, designers, and academics are often expected to provide content online, with little to no compensation. How can online platforms serve these communities and internet users at large?

The flower and spider “Internet Feeding Logs” were created so that I could recieve in-person feedback and generate discussion at the workshop. Each participant filled a worksheet out and recieved an “I Fed the Internet” riso poster in return.

Questions Asked of Participants: 

1. Why do we “feed” the internet?

2. How do we “feed” the internet?

3. What counts as nourishing content?  Garbage content?

4. What platforms provide the highest quality service and content to their users?

5. How can internet platforms better serve their contributors/users?

6. What are the ways that corporations and brands can give back to internet users in
exchange for their data?

7. How can we get more people involved in contributing to platforms like Wikipedia?

8. Why should people contribute to platforms like Wikipedia? What kind of platforms would you like to see online?

6. What types of compensation would you like to see in response to internet contributions?

7. What are some questions we should ask about the internet and existing online platforms?

Above, the flyer/poster I put up around Providence, to invite people to participate in the event.

When inviting people to the workshop, I told them that they could stop in even if they only had 15 minutes to spare. Many participants contributed to the internet in small ways, like sharing Instagram stories about the event, but others spent a great deal of time and effort following steps to contribute icons to the Noun Project and learn about Wikipedia’s editing guidelines.
In a way, people who participated in the workshop served as “imbedded journalists,” collecting and sharing their personal research while actively contributing to creative commons platforms and social media networks. This approach allowed us to develop a greater understanding of these platform’s abilities, requirements, and responsibilities.

Gradually, participants were able to learn and critique what succeeds on the platforms and the methods that are used to maintain order and credibility. One specific and complicated example was notability, a term which is frequently used on Wikipedia to determine status and relevance.

Ja Yoon Lee reading, “the very small internet feed(ing) booklet” at the workshop.

With Black Lunch Table and Art + Feminism

A series of pamphlets I originally created for the RISD Museum’s Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon. I altered and reused the information for my event in the Fleet Library.

Images from the Wikipedia editing event I helped with, which was hosted in the RISD Museum. This event was one of many things that inspired me to create the “Feeding the Internet Generously” workshop.

Wikipedia is an important and complicated platform to consider. Wikipedia aims to make knowledge more accessible and equitable, which also means that they must create programs that help to create greater representation.

Wikimedia and independent organizations like Afrocrowd and the Art + Feminism group do much needed work to diversify the editor population as well as the information shared on the platform. Without these initiatives, minority groups are at risk of being written out of contemporary history. Another hurdle, the demands of notability, make it more difficult to publish diverse subject matter. Who has free time? Women and POC are less likely to have time that they can give to Wikipedia editing, which is needed in order to make representation of articles and editors more equal. How can we address the historic issue of bias and lack in media coverage and must we reward people for their online labour? Why do people provide free academic labour and how does this affect who can be involved and what knowledge is shared?

Beyond Wikipedia, projects like Giphy serve as a free platform for sharing and accessing gifs and motion graphics. The entertainment provided is free, the exposure is little, and the artistic labour does not produce revenue. Other resources like the Noun Project and Google Fonts provide free resources for graphic designers and other interested parties. On the other side, the production of stock imagery can provide small profits and also generates a specific aesthetic language that we will explore. Though fame and monetary reward don’t play a part in all these structures of online knowledge sharing, they do appear in certain important cases to generate reward, like Youtube, Instagram, and Tumblr. Additionally, surfing the internet goes hand-in-hand with forced advertisement consumption.
Moving forward, I believe it is important to discover new ways to compensate internet feeding and to create opportunities for greater equitability online. Addressing this is important. A quote that has long stuck in my mind, that emphasizes how really everything is “the real world”, is this line from co-founder and ex-spokesperson of The Pirate Bay, “We don’t use the expression IRL. We say AFK—Away From Keyboard. We think that the internet is for real.” The ways in which platforms treat their users has big effects on and off the computer.

Sara Park and Kela Johnson.

Tiger Dingsun with a riso printed “I Fed the Internet” poster.

Bella Carlos contributed to Youtube for 15 minutes during the workshop.

Olive B. Godlee creating an icon for the Noun Project platform.

A picture of me (Raina Wellman) leading the workshop.
Photo by Zola Anderson.

You can learn more about work I’ve done relating to this project by listening to an audio magazine published via the Brown University Now Here This platform. I created a podcast about creating equitable coverage on Wikipedia. The story is called Righting Wikipedia.” It is the fourth of eight stories in the “Dreamland” issue.