Queer Identities, Normative Databases: Challenges to Capturing Queerness On Wikidata Journal Article uri icon



  • The collection, organization, and retrieval of data about queer individuals and their identities challenge the creators and curators of highly structured database systems. While prior research in archival studies and demographics has examined processes of collecting and storing queer identities, they do not examine the complexities of highly democratized platforms that lack top-down mandates that often structure archival schemas. To examine the representation of queer people on open-platform databases, we performed a trace ethnography and thematic analysis of Wikidata, an open collaboration, highly structured database. We specifically examined the creation of, changes to, discussions around, and impacts of properties that encode queer identities, such assexual orientation andsex or gender. We found that changes often have unexpected impacts, that contributors struggled to determine vocabulary for queer identities which were accurate across the diverse cultural contexts of the Wikidata community, that the recording of queer identities could cause a stigmatizing effect for LGBTQ+ individuals, with further concerns of spreading rumors or outing closeted people, and that contributors proposing changes which would cause biased representations of queer people. Our analysis demonstrates inherent and unaddressed frictions when translating queer identities to the confines of a structured database. We conclude by discussing ways that the highly bottom-up, collaborative nature of platforms such as Wikidata, often seen as a major strength, can be vulnerable to individuals or small groups derailing and filibustering changes they disagree with on politically charged topics such as queer identities.

publication date

  • April 14, 2023

has restriction

  • hybrid

Date in CU Experts

  • April 26, 2023 1:18 AM

Full Author List

  • Weathington K; Brubaker JR

author count

  • 2

Other Profiles

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2573-0142

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 1

end page

  • 26


  • 7


  • CSCW1