Internet Geographer


Posts tagged Middle East
Semantic Cities: Coded Geopolitics and the Rise of the Semantic Web.

In order to understand how the city’s contested political contexts are embedded into its digital layers, we traced how the city is represented on online platforms that house facts about much of the world. We did this by analyzing representations of Jerusalem across the Arabic, Hebrew and English versions of Wikipedia (working with a translator on the Arabic and Hebrew versions), as well as on the platforms of Wikidata, Freebase and Google. As our cities become increasingly digital, and as the digital becomes increasingly governed by the logics of the semantic web, there are important questions to ask about how these new alignments of code and content shape how cities are presented, experienced, and brought into being. What we found is a paradoxical situation whereby, through connecting datasets, semantic web initiatives detach localized information from the contexts of its creation. By divorcing content from its contexts, this process establishes new contexts in which necessarily political decisions are being made with far reaching consequences.

This is a topic of a new chapter (that I wrote with Heather Ford) that just arrived on my desk this morning. You can download the piece here:

Ford, H., and Graham, M. 2016. Semantic Cities: Coded Geopolitics and the Rise of the Semantic Web. In Code and the City. eds. Kitchin, R., and Perng, S-Y. London: Routledge. 200-214.

Otherwise, here’s a shorter version I wrote in Slate:

Graham, M. 2015. Why Does Google Say Jerusalem is the Capital of Israel Nov 30, 2015

We also have an earlier blog and webcast on the topic (and here's Washington Post’s coverage of our work). 


Mapping Wikipedia Article Quality in the Middle East
Knowledge is a public good and increases in value as the number of people possessing it increases” - John Wilbanks

Few would disagree with the above quote, but a key issue is that the production of knowledge is far from evenly distributed. The maps below visualise article length of Wikipedia articles (in English) about the Middle East. The first graphic shows a few unexpected patterns. 

First, we actually don’t see that many articles created about the region - compared to content created about many other parts of the planet. 

Also noticeable is the fact that we see a thick layer of information that has been created over most of Azerbaijan. As mentioned in a post that I wrote a few weeks ago, Azerbaijan has the lowest average word count per article out of any country in the world (159 words per article). This is most likely the case because of both the thousands of stubs that have been created in the country (i.e. articles containing little or no content) and the fact that there are only very few articles containing a lot of text in the country.

Looking at non-stubs, we see clusters of content in many of the large cities on the Persian Gulf (e.g. Kuwait City, Manama, Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai) and an even bigger cluster of articles over Sana'a in Yemen. A series of relatively long articles about places in Iraq are also noticeable along the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

But maybe the most visible cluster of user-generated information sits over Israel and the Palestinian Territories in the far-western side of the map. There are significantly more high-quality (i.e. long) articles about that area than the rest of the region. 

The cluster of information over Israel and the Palestinian Territories can be even more clearly seen in the map above. Amazingly, content about Cairo - the Middle East’s largest city - is barely noticeable compared to the glowing dots that represent information that has been created about the land between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan.