Join 3,432 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


A history of the world in 100 seconds
March 25, 2011 4:55 PM   Subscribe

"Many Wikipedia articles are tagged with geographic coordinates. Many have references to historic events. Cross referencing these two subsets and plotting them year on year adds up to a dynamic visualization of Wikipedia's view of world history." Via curiosity counts.
posted by brundlefly (38 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
World history Certain aspects of western history.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 4:58 PM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


Africa, the land that time Wikipedia forgot?
posted by orthogonality at 5:06 PM on March 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


i think it's pretty cool.
posted by foxhat10 at 5:21 PM on March 25, 2011


Eerily similar to visualization of Firefox 4 downloads over the last few days, which also started out somewhat Europe-centric but is now all over the world.
posted by twoleftfeet at 5:23 PM on March 25, 2011


Did anyone else see the CBS logo staring out from the middle of the image?
posted by Rarebit Fiend at 5:24 PM on March 25, 2011


Foci for Analysis: "Certain aspects of western history."

Certain aspects of English language history. (With a large Polish lobby, it would seem.)
posted by brokkr at 5:26 PM on March 25, 2011


I think this is yet another wealth distribution map guised as something else.
posted by Felex at 5:29 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is it sad that, even with the history of the world compressed down to 100 seconds, I still jumped ahead a few times?
posted by Ian A.T. at 5:38 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like the little explosion on the coast of the New World about 1492, and then about 1776 the U.S. just lights up like a Christmas tree.

But yeah. Not much south of the equator.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:42 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hmm, it seems like English language Wikipedia is still too heavily Euro-centric.
posted by Carius at 5:44 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


The main value of something like this, to me, is to remind us of the bias present in wikipedia. It is easy to think that, since anyone can edit a wiki page, it will somehow contain information that reflects everyone's interests. When in fact it, only contains information relevant to the group of people who actually edit wikipedia (in English, in this case.)
posted by ianhattwick at 5:46 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


It is too bad this Euro-centric site is static. If only we could add some articles on topics that are underrepresented. Oh well.
posted by jenlovesponies at 5:47 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


The Middle East and Europe have consistently been the most dynamic place on Earth, owing largely to their geography. The West certainly dominates the world, culturally and technologically. That isn't to say that it is unilateral, the word "wiki" is Hawaiian even, just that the West has exported far more than it has imported. I am not so quick to call this 100 seconds skewed or misleading.
posted by karmiolz at 5:49 PM on March 25, 2011


An interesting visualization, but generally not surprising. What I'd love to see is representations of the various Wikipedias in other languages and played side by side in contrast to each other.
posted by Atreides at 5:57 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is a measure of where in the world the most people with spare time and access to a computer are located.
posted by Catfry at 6:03 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would also say that rich societies might be able to support larger numbers of historians.
posted by Catfry at 6:10 PM on March 25, 2011


The Catfry Opulence Index, liberal arts majors per capita.
posted by karmiolz at 6:15 PM on March 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


The Catfry Opulence Index, liberal arts majors per capita.
posted by karmiolz at 9:15 PM on March 25 [1 favorite −] Favorite added! [!] Other [2/2]: «≡·


Can't favorite this hard enough
posted by toodleydoodley at 6:21 PM on March 25, 2011


I wouldn't read too much into the lack of hits for Africa and South America. Obviously we're going to see some bias, but I think it seems worse here because these are all mentions of geographic coordinates in particular, which I'm sure have a more stark distribution than other geographic references (e.g. names of cities). I'd be interested to see what this would look like if they could somehow rig it up so that any geographic reference appeared. Probably too much variation to be automated, but it'd be interesting to see. I don't think that all bias would go away, but I bet you wouldn't have nearly as many completely dark areas.
posted by ErWenn at 6:28 PM on March 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


"The Middle East and Europe have consistently been the most dynamic place on Earth, owing largely to their geography. The West certainly dominates the world, culturally and technologically. That isn't to say that it is unilateral, the word "wiki" is Hawaiian even, just that the West has exported far more than it has imported. I am not so quick to call this 100 seconds skewed or misleading."

So 600AD Britain, a backwater ruled by an array of uncoordinated local despots whose only interaction with the outside world was to export cheap wool and put up little fight to small bands of continental bachelor males, was really that much more dynamic, advanced, and dominating than The the Gupta Empire, the Classical area Mesoamerican states, and the powerfully coordinated Sui Dynasty, much less other civilizations whose histories are largely erased through genocide?

Only through the blindness of white privilege
posted by Blasdelb at 7:18 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


There's not a whole lot of historiography for Africa, America compared to Europe and China. It's a reflection of the sources, which is a reflection of the culture and history. Notice how Europe north of the Med is a blank for long periods of time - not because things didn't happen there, but because there are simply no record of it. It would be a mistake to blame Wikipedia editors for something like this. This map is a reflection of sources available through time.
posted by stbalbach at 7:26 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


There is also the issue of a historiographical body available to English readers. For example Iranian history might have a few hundred books available in English, while French history has 100s of thousands in English. One region will have more Wikipedia articles because there are more sources available to potential English-language editors.
posted by stbalbach at 8:04 PM on March 25, 2011


I meant the denotation of dynamic, as in changing. History often focuses on upheavals, not stability. The Empires you cited are notable in their stability. For as long as the world has seen contact between various cultures the West has indeed been more advanced, dynamic, and dominating than those it has encountered. Even today the rise of powers like India and China are largely owing to their adoption and implementation/improvement of Western culture. I never stated the west was always more advanced or dominant. In fact the upheavals of the West can often be attributed to incursion from the more advanced or powerful Eastern powers that decimated them.
posted by karmiolz at 8:06 PM on March 25, 2011


Gee, imagine that. A culture that created the Industrial Revolution, discovered electricity and invented the computer and the internet dominates a website created by a native member of that culture.

Who'd a thunk?
posted by TSOL at 9:48 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Boooooooring. No, really, I thought I was going to learn something, and instead that was a painfully boring 100 seconds. I'll go back to reading random wikipedia articles, thanks.

I think this is yet another wealth distribution map guised as something else.

This. A modern wealth/power distribution map superimposed on history, but you're on the right track.
posted by Tehhund at 10:17 PM on March 25, 2011


That wasn't a great visualization, nor did it surprise me. (Wikipedia has had a project for "Countering Systemic Bias" for years now. Progress: Limited.)

The heat map also contained no surprises. The Polish-speaking contingent has been heavily organized for years, to the point that they were able to ignore English-language naming rules for a long time on articles like Casimir Pulaski by outvoting everyone else. Very annoying. Meanwhile French and Spanish Wikipedias were created earlier and quite mature enough to absorb editors in those languages before they felt the need to work in the English Wikipedia. A shame, really, as both would be invaluable in helping flesh out areas of Latin America or Africa, and I wonder what the heatmaps of those language Wikipedias look like. Maybe a big blank spot in the middle of North America, except for an area bordering the St. Lawrence River....
posted by dhartung at 11:13 PM on March 25, 2011


It is too bad this Euro-centric site is static. If only we could add some articles on topics that are underrepresented. Oh well.


This underrepresentation will never be correct even if you continue to add articles. As stated by stbalbach in upthread, historiographical works available to English readers is an issue. For example, Twenty-Four Histories are still untranslated into English and will likely never will . Only few books and partial translation of Twenty-Four Histories are available to English readers.
posted by Carius at 12:56 AM on March 26, 2011


The Middle East and Europe have consistently been the most dynamic place on Earth, owing largely to their geography
That's completely ridiculous. How would you even measure "dynamism" Europe was a backwater in the middle ages. You're missing out entirely on the mongol empire, which eventually did stretch into the middle east, and so on.
posted by delmoi at 6:16 AM on March 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think this is yet another wealth distribution map guised as something else.

This. A modern wealth/power distribution map superimposed on history, but you're on the right track.
Because obviously Poland is much richer then France, right? This is a measure of English speakers (who are also japanophiles)
posted by delmoi at 6:18 AM on March 26, 2011


Twenty-Four Histories are still untranslated into English and will likely never will

Now there's a job for a wiki!
posted by Ian A.T. at 7:45 AM on March 26, 2011


That's completely ridiculous.

Not at all, this is a view among some historians with plenty of academic literature. You might disagree, but calling it "completely ridiculous" suggests its something your not familiar with, the arguments are not so easily dismissed.

How would you even measure "dynamism" Europe was a backwater in the middle ages.

Hmm.. only true from about the 5th to 10th century, excepting some lights with Charlemagne, and ignoring Constantinople, which was still calling itself Roman.
posted by stbalbach at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2011


Things get really exciting at 0:55 when suddenly, BAM! Iceland!
posted by steef at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2011


Hmm.. only true from about the 5th to 10th century, excepting some lights with Charlemagne, and ignoring Constantinople, which was still calling itself Roman.


I think the problem is when people say Europe they really meant Western Europe and ignore everything in Eastern Europe. Isn't whole concept of Europe anachronistic 5th to 10th century? Is Anatolia part of Europe during that time frame?
posted by Carius at 8:49 AM on March 26, 2011


Isn't whole concept of Europe anachronistic 5th to 10th century?

yes (with nuance)

-------------------------

Another systemic bias I get a kick out of, looking at the Categories for birth year, like Category:1970 births.

Date: Number of articles

1900: 2,995
1905: 3,246
1910: 3,595
1915: 3,622
1920: 4,323
1925: 4,138
1930: 4,632
1935: 4,466
1940: 5,448
1945: 6,095
1950: 6,659
1955: 6,600
1960: 6,648
1965: 6,716
1970: 7,585
1975: 7,709
1980: 9,286
1985: 9,454 (peak, begins to decrease from here)

There are more Wikipedia biography articles for people born in 1985 than any other year in history!
posted by stbalbach at 9:13 AM on March 26, 2011


I would measure dynamism by the amount on tumultuous change experienced. I have clarified before, I do not mean dynamic in the colloquial sense, but literal. Europe has undergone more drastic and frequent upheaval than other continents.
posted by karmiolz at 11:21 AM on March 26, 2011


I find this article and the resulting conversation fascinating, I must add. I'm surprised by the points that this is primarily a map of language (or bored liberal arts majors). It seems to me that the English language, while certainly biased, might be less biased than French, Spanish, Polish, etc. Aren't there more English speaking (and publishing) historians? Put differently, which language likely has the most historical information available to put in a wiki? I too would *love* to see side by side videos of other wikipedia sites and especially a compilation of all of them.
posted by Buckt at 3:09 PM on March 26, 2011


Since I watched the animation by Isao Hashimoto back in one of the Fukushima threads my brain turns each dot into a terrifying explosion.
posted by double bubble at 3:19 PM on March 26, 2011


It is a measure of where in the world the most people with spare time and access to a computer are located.

That's a brilliant insight. The detailed articles about the minutiae of things in some places just don't get written because there aren't enough people around in those places who can write them. As Wikipedia becomes some kind of defacto "fact-source", it's important to remember that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:10 AM on March 27, 2011


« Older The music industry Loudness War is over. Research ...  |  Tsunehisa Kimura (1928-2008) w... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments