All Wikipedia articles about king, kingdom, and empires are located in Europe, Russia, Israel, and the Middle East. Gallery captions by Olivier Beauchesne

Articles about the navy, naval battles, etc., are located in coastal cities and in the Pacific.

Articles about horse races, thoroughbreds, jockeys, etc., are located in England and New England

Articles about ice hockey are located in the northern U.S. and Canada.

Articles about Islam are located in the Arab world.

Articles about God and the Bible are located in Israel and Egypt.

Articles about coastal features really outline the coasts.

Articles about Big Brother (the reality show) are located in the cities where it was filmed.

Articles about archeology really highlight historic sites.

Articles about Jews highlight where the communities are located (New York, Florida, Israel, etc.).

Articles about battles, conflicts, war, etc. really show where the battles were located.

Articles about light houses are located on coastal areas and on hard-to-navigate rivers.

Articles about ships highlight coastal cities and shipwrecks.

Articles about mountain ranges highlight existing mountain ranges.

Articles about wine and beer show their production regions (California, Italy, France, etc.).

Infographic: An Amazing, Invisible Truth About Wikipedia

Hiding inside Wikipedia’s geotag data are maps of old wartime allegiances, and invisible interest groups.

Every Wikipedia entry has an optional feature we take for granted—geotagging. An entry on the Lincoln Memorial will be linked to its specific latitude and longitude in Washington D.C. On any individual post, this may or may not be a useful thing. But what about looking at these locations en masse?

That was a question asked by data viz specialist and programmer Olivier Beauchesne. To find out, he downloaded all of Wikipedia (it’s open-source, after all) then used an algorithm that would assemble 300 topical clusters from popular, related keywords. Then he placed the location of each article in these topical clusters on a map. What he found was astounding.

Articles about shipwrecks

“I thought I would get only geographical clusters [like mountains],” Beauchesne tells Co.Design, “not topics about abstract subjects like history, archeology, TV shows, race relations, etc.”

In the gallery above, Beauchesne walks us through the findings of several of his maps (it’s worth exploring). Blue is always the baseline—just locations of all Wikipedia articles. The red is where the geolocation of any searched topic appears.

You can see that, yes, the mountain ranges are an easy spot. The geotags on articles about mountains aggregate to re-create actual mountain ranges. But there are a slew of other, more fascinating results, too. Articles about beer and wine generate a map of the grape-growing regions in Italy, California, and France. Coastal stories create thin coastal outlines of our continents. War articles paint a picture of the world’s battles, and specific searches including “navy” and “navy battles” will actually draw a picture of World War II. You don’t just see a map of places; you see images of history and culture.

“I was a bit taken aback of the granularity of the geocoding,” Beauchesne admits. “It seems that everywhere on Earth (except jungles, deserts, oceans, etc.) is documented.”

Articles about mountain ranges

Assuming Wikipedia is around for the next century, it would be incredible to watch the dark spots of the map fill in with knowledge, as submarines take us deeper into the ocean and as historians learn more about past cultures. Eventually, Beauchesne’s maps evolve to something more than the locations of everything in the world. They become the locations of, quite simply, everything we know.

See more here.

[Hat tip: Visualizing]

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8 Comments

  • Richard

    is iz leardnt a lot from dis here artikle.

    instead of relating reference to location, how about correlating location to source? Articles about the bible might highlight biblical locations, obviously, but where are the authors actually located? I guess probably not in israel. are people writing about wine located in france? this might uncover something fascinating; now get to work Olivier Beauchesne!!!

    respekt.

  • Soccerguy1982

    I think Al nails it on the head.  Seeing that wiki articles on mountains match mountain ranges exactly when the mountain range articles contain the exact location of the mountain ranges is like being shocked when you pull out a road map and find that the place on the road map that shows the road is the exact same location as the road is on the ground.

    I really don't get where the "wow" factor is in this.

  • Scott Byorum

    Articles about dumb@$$ trivia are located on Fast Company.

    Hahaha... I'm being a jerk, I admit, but it's still funny!

  • Allan White

    While I think the trolls above are thinking too small about this insightful visualization, where are the "invisible interest groups" the headline promised? Still invisible?

    It implies the ongoing debate about who is writing about what on wikipedia. That is interesting. Also, the correlation between where a post is written (say, fans of Victor Hugo in the US), and where the subject is (the Pantheon in France). I'm guessing it's not 1:1.

  • Al

    I thought that at first: that the geolocations were the locations of the people writing the articles, so we were learning about where people most interested in topics were located. So, not exactly surprising, but interesting.

    Then I read it again: it's not talking about the locations of the users, but the locations that users assign to an article.

    So when it says most articles related to shipwrecks have a geotag that is at sea, we're not learning that there are lots of sailors updating wikipedia from the decks of their ships using satellites (which would be interesting). We're learning that most articles about shipwrecks that are assigned a geographic position are assigned the geographic position of the shipwreck the article is about.

    That's not very insightful. It just means people who enter data on wikipedia aren't doing it at random and are usually doing it in a sensible way.

    That said, automatically generated maps of almost all the world's known shipwrecks? Or anything else? That IS interesting. Very interesting. But not for the reasons implied in this article.

  • Mind Blasting

    hahahah.. duh! 
    let me guess, articles about Fidel Castro would be located in Cuba?!?

    anyways, cool visualization, but dont make it seem like some sort of an amazing revelation.

  • railingk

    "Articles about Islam are located in the Arab world."

    "Articles about coastal features really outline the coasts."

    Mind-blowing.