Listen To The Orchestra Of Users Updating Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a silent depository of information, an endless library where no one even dares to cough even though books are being added, subtracted, and edited with fervor at every moment.

But it’s silent no more. Listen to Wikipedia, inspired by Listen to Bitcoin and created by Mahmoud Hashemi and Stephen LaPorte, transforms the worldwide editing process into a relaxed global orchestra. A celesta plays whenever an addition is made. A clavichord sounds whenever something is deleted. The higher the pitch, the smaller the edit.

“Listen to Wikipedia was designed to be simple,” explains Mahmoud Hashemi, “a visualization which doesn’t overshadow the sonification aspect and a sonification which scales well between different levels of traffic. A wind chime that sounds as good on a calm day as it does a windy one.”

And just like a wind chime, the tones play on a pentatonic scale, which allows any random order of notes (or edits) to sound equally pleasant. Meanwhile, the soundscape is supported by a bokeh-like visualization in which registered users (green), unregistered users (white), and even bots (purple) update Wikipedia’s pages. It’s especially interesting, as you can actually see the titles of the pieces these users are updating, which only serves to make WIkipedia feel more randomly expansive.

Of course, you can learn something from Listen to Wikipedia if you look and listen closely enough. Namely, 80% or more of Wikipedia’s edits are made by registered users, who tend to make the largest changes. I wonder if that means unregistered users tend to make quick fact fixes rather than hunker down and add 500 more words to any given narrative. Or, and this is a darker reading, unregistered users shape Wikipedia to their will, one almost imperceptibly subtle shift at a time.

Try it here.MW