Knowledge Equity and Spatial Justice on Wikipedia

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Creating Knowledge Equity and Spatial Justice on Wikipedia

Speaker: Dr Martin Dittus, Oxford Internet Institute

Date: Friday, 20th July. Time: 17:00 Location: Montreal Flag of Montreal.svg & Mexico City Flag of Mexican Federal District.svg
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Dr Martin Dittus

The world is increasingly digital. Places are layered with data and algorithms that fundamentally shape our geographic interactions, impacting how we perceive, move through, and use the cities that we live in. As the world's largest web-based encyclopaedia, Wikipedia plays an enormous role in shaping how people relate to the world. But while the open nature of Wikipedia, in theory, allows content to be created by anyone about any notable place, there remain significant imbalances in global participation and representation.

In response, the Wikipedia community has introduced the concept of "knowledge equity" as an important strategic concern: "We will strive to counteract structural inequalities to ensure a just representation of knowledge and people in the Wikimedia movement."

To better understand the effects of this transformation, it becomes important to ask who owns, controls, shapes, and has access to those augmented and hybrid digital/physical layers of place. Now that over half of humanity is connected to the internet, do we see greater levels of representation of, and participation from, previously digitally disconnected populations? Or are our digitally dense environments continuing to amplify inequalities rather than alleviate them?

Professor Mark Graham and Dr Martin Dittus have recently launched a two-year project to empirically address those questions about our information geographies. Martin will present early findings, using geotagged information found on Wikipedia. What are the geographies of digital augmentations of place? And what is the provenance of those digital augmentations? Are we seeing a widening or narrowing of informational inequalities? By presenting our theoretical framework, methodology, and preliminary results, we hope to both bring a spatial perspective to emergent conversations about knowledge equity on Wikipedia, and receive feedback that could reshape our empirical enquiry in this multi-year project.

Biography Martin Dittus is a digital geographer and data scientist at the Oxford Internet Institute, with a focus on mass-participation platforms and social computing. In his research he analyses and visualises emerging online practices at large scale. Together with Mark Graham he is currently researching the information geography of Wikipedia. Which places in the world are represented on Wikipedia, and who in the world participates in the creation of this knowledge? How equitable are the processes that shape this knowledge? Who, what, and where gets left out?