Internet Geographer


Posts tagged data science
New publication - Using Geotagged Digital Social Data in Geographic Research

This chapter outlines how one might utilize the massive amounts of web-based, geographically-referenced digital social data for geographical research. Because much of these data are user-generated and produced through social media platforms, we also focus on the pitfalls associated with such sources and the benefits of a mixed methods approach to these data. Not only can digital social data be mapped for visual analysis, it is also useful to use a range of quantitative methods to understand relationships between different subsets of the data. In addition, closer, systematic readings via qualitative methods of social data provides insights of particular people’s perceptions and experiences of the world around them. Thus, while making maps is often the starting point for geographers working with this kind of research, it is rarely the end point.

You can see the chapter on Google Books, or download a pre-publication version below.

Poorthuis, A., Zook, M., Shelton, T., Graham, M, and Stephens, M. 2016. Using Geotagged Digital Social Data in Geographic Research. In Key Methods in Geography. eds. Clifford, N., French, S., Cope, M., and Gillespie, T. London: Sage. 248-269.

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:

Informational Magnetism on Wikipedia: mapping edit focus

The previous post demonstrated not only that Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East and North Africa are net-importers of content on Wikipedia (Sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, receives 10.7 more edits from the rest of the world than it commits to the rest of the world), but it also showed where those edits come from.

This post does something a little different: it shows where edits are sent to.

Screen Shot 2015-01-21 at 09.37.32

In this network, an edge (a line connecting nodes) thickness is proportionate to the total number of edits received. That is, if a region sends most of its edits to North America (even if it sends very few edits) then that edge will be thick.

With the graph normalized by the number of edits sent, we see a striking finding from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Not only do less than half of edits in the MENA region stay within the MENA region, but a substantial share go to North America, even if their impact on the overall number of edits within North America is rather minimal.

In fact, proportionate to the total number of edits sent from a region, MENA sends more edits to North America than any other region sends to another. This leads to what might be considered a ‘double whammy’ for the MENA region. Not only are there not many articles about the Middle East, and even fewer in local languages. And not only are there very very few editors. But of the edits that exist, a lot of them are to write about Europe, Asia, and America.

The global informational cores are exerting a sort of information magnetism. The presence of information creating a virtuous cycle of informational richness; and the absence of information being part of a vicious cycle of informational poverty.

Ralph Straumann and I are working on a paper that explores these topics and this conclusion in more detail, and will post a full draft here as soon as we have one. In the meantime, we’d welcome any comments or questions on the patterns and data presented here.

Note that this work comes from the following report:

Graham, M., and Hogan, B. 2014. Uneven Openness: Barriers to MENA Representation on Wikipedia.Oxford Internet Institute Report, Oxford UK.

The following paper also offers an abridged version of some of the results:

Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014 Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty Annals of the Association of American Geographers (forthcoming).

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

Graham, M. 2014. Internet Geographies: Data Shadows and Digital Divisions of Labour. In Society and the Internet: How Networks of Information and Communication are Changing our Lives, eds M. Graham and W. H. Dutton. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 99-116.

Graham, M., M. Zook, and A. Boulton. 2013. Augmented Reality in the Urban Environment.Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers. 38(3) 464-479.