Internet Geographer

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Posts tagged menawiki
The geography of Wikipedia edits
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Wikipedia has a geography. This is something that my colleagues and I have explored previously in a variety of scholarship. 

For a new book on ‘Open Development’, my colleague Stefano De Sabbata and I decided to update our most recent paper about information geographies with the above maps of Wikipedia. 

The basic underlying inequalities haven’t changed. Using the number of edits to every language version of Wikipedia coming from all countries and territory in the last quarter of 2014 (the most recent full set of data available), the above maps show that the geography of participation on Wikipedia is highly uneven.  

Stark inequalities are readily apparent: Europe and North America contribute 35.2% and 23.6% of Wikipedia’s edits respectively. In contrast, Africa contributes only. 1.3% of the world’s total (although it is worth noting that a few years ago, Africa’s contribution was consistently less than 1%). In fact, contributions from Africa are so low that there are actually more edits that originate in the Netherlands than the whole continent combined.

While some of these disparities can be explained by the total number of Internet users in a country, even normalizing by the percent of the population online (the second map) results in Africa still registering far fewer edits than would be expected (see our paper on this topic for detailed statistical analyses).

These geographies of Wikipedia edits because they represent how people from different parts of the world get to represent each other. Some people and places continue to have little voice and continue to be left off the map.

For more on this topic, see:

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)

Graham, M. 2015. Information Geographies and Geographies of Information New Geographies 7 159-166.

Graham, M., De Sabbata, S., Zook, M. 2015. Towards a study of information geographies:(im)mutable augmentations and a mapping of the geographies of information Geo: Geography and Environment.2(1) 88-105. doi:10.1002/geo2.8

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. 104(4). 746-764. (pre-publication version here)

Or a recent talk I gave:

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 Slate.com Nov 30, 2015

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

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