In ten years Wikipedia has risen to prominence as the world’s foremost purveyor of reference information. As of February 2012, it attracts almost 500 million unique visitors every month, making a combined 18 billion page requests. Wikipedia’s massive scope and global prominence suggests a completeness that is perhaps unwarranted, given its content varies greatly in quality, length and coverage. Because almost a quarter of Wikipedia articles include a geotag (i.e. geographical coordinates), we can map the geographical distribution and density of these geocoded articles to reveal that the densest layers of information (or representation) in Wikipedia cover Europe, North America, and the Asia Pacific region, with much less content written about other parts of the world, in particular the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Past work at the Oxford Internet Institute has created a series of static maps that illustrate Wikipedia’s global asymmetry¬†[1]. In order to allow users to explore Wikipedia’s geographic representations for themselves we have now partnered with TraceMedia to produce an interactive map of Wikipedia’s geocoded content in seven languages. Using the drop down language menus and zoomable interface, users can explore how much of the world – and what parts – are written about in Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, English, French, Persian and Swahili. Please note that this map will render every point in every language that is specified by the user. This can make the map especially slow: for example, visualising every English language article worldwide results in almost 100mb rendered on the screen. If you experience performance lags, try either filtering down to a specific region or another language.

The project “Who represents the Arab world online? Mapping and measuring local knowledge production and representation in the Middle East and North Africa” has been supported by the IDRC and John Fell Awards Scheme.

[1] For examples of static maps that illustrate Wikipedia’s global asymmetry, see:
Mapping Wikipedia edits from Europe
Wikipedia Article Quality in Africa
Article Quality in English Wikipedia
Wikipedia in the UK
Mapping Wikipedia’s augmentations of our planet
Where do Wikipedia edits come from?