April 20, 2010

Mapping Wikipedia over space and time

Today we're offering a follow up to our earlier post on the mapping of Wikipedia biographies using some data from Adrian Popescu.
The following seven maps show the number of articles by century and location. In other words, Jesus would be counted in the first map and Bob Dole would be counted in both the 20th and 21st Century maps. Given the relatively small number of Wikipedia articles about pre-16th Century people, the first map includes all historical figures listed in the English version of wikipedia prior to 1500. (I can hear the historians sighing already...)
Some of the major patterns that pop out are
  • the lack of pre-16th century biographies in locations (Fertile Cresent, China, Indian subcontinent, etc.) with the longest histories of civilization;
  • the expansion of biographies within North America as European settlement moved westward; and
  • the continued relative high level of entries within the Western world during the 20th and 21st centuries.
The geographies of content presented in these maps reflect both the language bias within the data (limited to English) but also the uneven geographic focus of much historical scholarship. And it remains important to recognise that these uneven geographies likely play a key role in shaping our understandings of the word.

Pre-16th Century biographies
16th Century biographies
17th Century biographies18th Century biographies
19th Century biographies
20th Century biographies
21st Century biographies

See also:

Adrian Popescu, Gregory Grefenstette (2010) Spatiotemporal Mapping of Wikipedia Concepts, JDCL 2010, June 21-25, Brisbane, Australia.


  1. Wow. That's pretty cool. It must have taken a long time to figure out where all those articles came from. =/

    You should also take some time to check out my blog:

  2. Any clue what's up with Portugal? Why so much lower than every other area of Europe except middle Scandinavia, which is very sparsely populated?

  3. "That's very cool! Did you map it to the location field like we did on http://maps.thefullwiki.org ? Check out the video. You can compare centuries and click the markers to see which articles there are at