Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty

Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014. Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 104(4). 746-764.

28 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2014 Last revised: 5 Jul 2015

Mark Graham

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Bernie Hogan

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Ralph K Straumann

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Ahmed Medhat

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute

Date Written: January 21, 2014

Abstract

Geographies of codified knowledge have always been characterized by stark core-periphery patterns: with some parts of the world at the center of global voice and representation, and many others invisible or unheard. However, many have pointed to the potential for radical change as digital divides are bridged and 2.5 billion people are now online.

With a focus on Wikipedia, which is one of the world’s most visible, most used, and most powerful repositories of user-generated content, we investigate whether we are now seeing fundamentally different patterns of knowledge production. Even though Wikipedia consists of a massive cloud of geographic information about millions of events and places around the globe put together by millions of hours of human labor, it remains that the encyclopedia is characterized by uneven and clustered geographies: there is simply not a lot of content about much of the world.

The paper then moves to describe the factors that explain these patterns, showing that while just a few conditions can explain much of the variance in geographies of information some parts of the world remain well below their expected values. These findings indicate that better connectivity is only a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for the presence of volunteered geographic information about a place. We conclude by discussing the remaining social, economic, political, regulatory, and infrastructural barriers that continue to disadvantage many of the world’s informational peripheries. The paper ultimately shows that, despite many hopes that a democratization of connectivity will spur a concomitant democratization of information production, internet connectivity is not a panacea, and can only ever be one part of a broader strategy to deepen the informational layers of places.

Keywords: Geographies of Knowledge, Geoweb, Internet Geography, Representation, Wikipedia

Suggested Citation

Graham, Mark and Hogan, Bernie and Straumann, Ralph K and Medhat, Ahmed, Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty (January 21, 2014). Graham, M., Hogan, B., Straumann, R. K., and Medhat, A. 2014. Uneven Geographies of User-Generated Information: Patterns of Increasing Informational Poverty. Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 104(4). 746-764.. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2382617

Mark Graham (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

HOME PAGE: http://www.geospace.co.uk

Bernie Hogan

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Ralph K Straumann

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

Ahmed Medhat

University of Oxford - Oxford Internet Institute ( email )

1 St. Giles
University of Oxford
Oxford OX1 3PG Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire OX1 3JS
United Kingdom

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