Internet Geographer


Posts tagged Wikipedia
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). 


New publication - Digital Divisions of Labor and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia
Network of edits between world regions, normalised for each target region. The edges are coloured according to the source region. Percentages denote self-edits (not depicted).

I am very happy to announce that a new paper that I have written with Ralph Straumann and Bernie Hogan is now available:

Graham, M., Straumann, R., Hogan, B. 2016. Digital Divisions of Labor and Informational Magnetism: Mapping Participation in Wikipedia. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 105(6) 1158-1178. doi:10.1080/00045608.2015.1072791.(pre-publication version here)

The paper is the result of about three years of research into geographic patterns of participation in Wikipedia. We sought to ask what the geographies of voice and representation are: with a focus on whether Wikipedia offers people in the world’s economic margins a space to represent their own communities, or whether those margins continue to represented by non-locals. The full abstract is below. I have also previously blogged about some of the results in more detail in the following posts:

Explaining locally-contributed content in Wikipedia about Sub-Saharan Africa

Visualising the locality of participation and voice on Wikipedia

Digging deeper into the localness of participation in Sub-Saharan African Wikipedia content

Informational Magnetism on Wikipedia: geographic networks of edits

Informational Magnetism on Wikipedia: mapping edit focus


There are now more than 3 billion Internet users on our planet. The connections afforded to all of those people, in theory, allow for an unprecedented amount of communication and public participation. The goal of this article is to examine how those potentials match up to actual patterns of participation. By focusing on Wikipedia, the world’s largest and most used repository of user-generated content, we are able to gain important insights into the geographies of voice and participation. This article shows that the relative democratization of the Internet has not brought about a concurrent democratization of voice and participation. Despite the fact that it is widely used around the world, Wikipedia is characterized by highly uneven geographies of participation. The goal of highlighting these inequalities is not to suggest that they are insurmountable. Our regression analysis shows that the availability of broadband is a clear factor in the propensity of people to participate on Wikipedia. The relationship is not a linear one, though. As a country approaches levels of connectivity above about 450,000 broadband Internet connections, the ability of broadband access to positively affect participation keeps increasing. Complicating this issue is the fact that participation from the world’s economic peripheries tends to focus on editing about the world’s cores rather than their own local regions. These results ultimately point to an informational magnetism that is cast by the world’s economic cores, virtuous and vicious cycles that make it difficult to reconfigure networks and hierarchies of knowledge production.

Note that much of this work comes from the following report:

The following paper also offers some related results:

Or for a broader discussion about why the locality of participation matters, see:

"Towards a study of information geographies" A full list of our maps
We very recently published a paper that brings together a lot of the internet mapping work that we’ve been doing:

Graham, M., S. De Sabbata, and M. A. Zook. (2015) “Towards a Study of Information Geographies: (im)mutable Augmentations and a Mapping of the Geographies of Information.” Geo: Geography and Environment, doi:10.1002/geo2.8. (HTML version here)

A more detailed description and abstract are available in my earlier post about the piece. But what I didn’t do there is upload all of the maps and visualisations that we include in the paper. So, here they are. Make sure you check out the (open access) paper if you want to know more about the methods, findings, and implications.

NB. Here’s a talk on the same topic that I did for BBC Radio 4 last year (in case you’d like the non-visual version).
New paper - Towards a study of information geographies
Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 16.17.21
Our research group spends a lot of time mapping the internet and the digital information that flows within it. So we decided to attempt to bring together a lot of that work into a single (open access) paper:

Graham, M., S. De Sabbata, and M. A. Zook. (2015) “Towards a Study of Information Geographies: (im)mutable Augmentations and a Mapping of the Geographies of Information.” Geo: Geography and Environment, doi:10.1002/geo2.8. (HTML version here)

Here’s the abstract:
Information has always had geography. It is from somewhere; about somewhere; it evolves and is transformed somewhere; it is mediated by networks, infrastructures, and technologies: all of which exist in physical, material places. These geographies of information about places matter because they shape how we are able to find and understand different parts of the world. Places invisible or discounted in representations are invisible in practice to many people. In other words, geographic augmentations are much more than just representations of places: they are part of the place itself; they shape it rather than simply reflect it. This fusing of the spatial and informational augmentations that are immutable means that annotations of place emerge as sites of political contestation: with different groups of people trying to impose different narratives on informational augmentations. This paper therefore explores how information geographies have their own geographic distributions: geographies of access, of participation, and of representation. The paper offers a deliberately broad survey of a range of key platforms that mediate, host, and deliver different types of geographic information. It does so using a combination of existing statistics and bespoke data not previously mapped or analysed. Through this effort, the paper demonstrates that in addition to the geographies of uneven access to contemporary modes of communication, uneven geographies of participation and representation are also evident and in some cases are being amplified rather than alleviated. In other words, the paper comprehensively shows one important facet of contemporary information geographies: that geographic information itself is characterised by a host of uneven geographies. The paper concludes that there are few signs that global informational peripheries are achieving comparable levels of participation or representation with traditional information cores, despite the hopes that the fast-paced spread of the internet to three billion people might change this pattern

We also have a forthcoming paper that explores some of the reasons for these inequalities in more detail (I’ll post more about it in a few weeks). But until then, we thought it would be worth documenting these digital inequalities in the digital and offering a framework through which we can think about them.