Does Wikipedia have a European bias? And why does this matter?

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Could Wikipedia be changing the way we think about the world? Check out this map from the Oxford Internet Institute.

Wikipedia-hegemons-and-uneven-geographic-coverage__Oxford-Internet-Institute

The map is really interesting: Analysts at the University have plotted 3,336,473 geo-tagged Wikipedia articles (in 44 languages) on a map, and as you can see – there are more articles inside the circle than outside. According to this blog post, by contrast, Africa, which has 14% of the world’s population and 20% of the land accounts for just 2.5% of articles.

So what does this mean? Here’s how the academics described their conclusion:

“This uneven distribution of knowledge carries with it the danger of spatial solipsism for the people who live inside one of Wikipedia’s focal regions. It also strongly underrepresents regions such as the Middle East and North Africa as well as Sub-Saharan Africa. In the global context of today’s digital knowledge economies, these digital absences are likely to have very material effects and consequences.”

In essence, what they are saying is that given Wikipedia is so influential and important online, the fact that Europe is over-represented compared to the rest of the world could warp our understanding of our history and geography: Could we all end up unthinkingly undervaluing the rest of the world’s contribution to our society? Let us know what you think in the comments.

James O’Malley

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