Mapping Wikipedia’s Blind Spots

| 12/18/2009 3:18:51 PM

Playmobil map of the worldMark Graham digs into Wikipedia’s geotags and emerges with a map, published in The Guardian, demonstrating the online encyclopedia’s “highly uneven geography of information”—articles about places and events from Europe and the United States are disproportionately represented, while articles about places and events in developing countries are written in far fewer numbers.

Almost the entire continent of Africa is geographically poorly represented in Wikipedia. Remarkably, there are more Wikipedia articles written about Antarctica than all but one of the 53 countries in Africa (or perhaps more amazingly, there are more Wikipedia articles written about the fictional places of Middle Earth and Discworld than about many countries in Africa, Asia, and the Americas).

There are some countries that are crammed with a dense amount of floating virtual information, such as Germany (with an average of one article tagged for every 65 square km), while others remain as virtual deserts, such as Chad (with an average of one tagged article every 17,000 square km).

It’s possible, Graham writes, that as technology improves in developing countries, new Internet access will mean new editors for Wikipedia—and a lot fewer blank spots on the website’s information map. But, he argues, “it is equally conceivable that as peer-produced projects such as Wikipedia become our primary sources of knowledge, we could begin to see permanent information inequalities between different parts of the world.” Either way, “it is clear that we are far from running out of topics to write about.”

(Thanks, Bookforum.)

Source: The Guardian