Terra Incognita visualises how Wikipedia has evolved over the last decade as an intriguing mirror of cultural and sociological difference. To achieve this we have taken each language edition of the encyclopaedia and mapped all the articles that refer to geographic locations. The work gives insights into the complex ways in which the encyclopaedia's language communities interrelate: the unexpected areas of focus, overlaps between each language's geography, and how the focus of linguistic communities has emerged over time.
The project comprises of various experiments, each of which focus on different aspects of Wikipedia’s geographic content. Initial developments of the work use intricate scatter plots to highlight patterns in the article metadata. The Google Maps version displays the edits in the context of a detailed basemap, while the Kartograph version shows how the articles are structured using a variety of world map projections.
Before starting the application be aware that the larger Wikipedia languages are over 10MB to download, and the maps will perform better for selections of no more than 300 thousand articles. The application is designed for desktop, and will work with IE9 or above, Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Instructions in the application info describe the various features.
One aspect of Wikipedia we wanted to explore is how the various language editions have spread over the globe at different times, looking specifically at the record of newly created articles.
The best way to see this is to choose one particular country or continent, and up to eight languages of interest.
Select the Language map and use the timeline to run through the cumulative coverage as waves of new articles are laid down. Alternatively use a fixed time window to reveal how topographic features emerge at certain times.
Spanish, Portugese, French, English, German, Persian & Dutch in US
Japanese, Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, Korean & Thai
English - Kartograph Equidistant Azimuthal Projection
In addition to the language coverage we were interested in seeing how two or more languages intersect with each other - which locations appear in two encyclopaedia’s and what proportion of articles do the editions have in common. An approach to visualising this is the Languages Intersection map, where the articles in white indicate those that appear in more than one of the current languages. The legend indicates the percentage of the total articles that intersect.
Chinese & Japanese
French & Dutch
Persian & Arabic
Bulgarian & Romanian
Czech & Slovak
Portugese & Spanish
Serbian & Croatian
Africa - European Languages
This metric shows the number of languages that an article is translated into. The Language Links map indicates the most translated articles, while Untranslated describes what proportion of a language’s articles are unique to it.
Romanian Language Links
Terra Incognita - Untranslated
An indication of the editing activity for each language is given by the Map metrics: ‘Page Size’, ‘Revisions’ and ‘Number of Images’. For example the average number of revisions for the more recently developed Chinese edition is below 10, while the more established German edition is above 20.