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Mapping research with WikiMaps
02 July 2012
An international research team has developed a dynamic tool that allows you to see a map of what is "important" on Wikipedia and the connections between different entries. The tool, which is currently in the "alpha" phase of development, displays classic musicians, bands, people born in the 1980s, and selected celebrities, including Lady Gaga, Barack Obama, and Justin Bieber. A slider control, or play button, lets you move through time to see how a particular topic or group has evolved over the last 3 or 4 years. The desktop version allows you to select any article or topic.
Wikimaps builds on the fact that Wikipedia contains a vast amount of high-quality information, despite the very occasional spot of vandalism and the rare instances of deliberate disinformation or inadvertent misinformation. It also carries with each article meta data about the page's authors and the detailed information about every single contribution, edit, update and change. This, Reto Kleeb, of the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, and colleagues say, "…opens new opportunities to investigate the processes that lie behind the creation of the content as well as the relations between knowledge domains." They suggest that because Wikipedia has such a great amount of underlying information in the metadata it is possible to create a dynamic picture of the evolution of a page, topic or collection of connections.
The team asserts that while searching Wikipedia is useful it does not provide a fine-grained semantic network of relevant articles. Kleeb and colleagues suggest that Wikimaps by combining different metrics and metadata from Wikipedia fills that gap. The team concedes that it has just "scratched the surface", Wikimaps not only has the potential to open real-time windows on information and the history and the evolution of news and knowledge, it could be extended laterally to incorporate versions of Wikipedia in other languages too and allow dynamic comparisons to be made between different geographical regions, for instance, as well as over time.
"Cultural influences are deeply engrained in each of us, influencing how we act and respond to external influences," Kleeb says, "WikiMaps could offer a fascinating real-time window into current history and culture, spotting trends as they are unfolding right under our noses."
A demo version of Wikimaps is available at http://www.ickn.org/wikimaps/. In addition to the browser-based version the authors also provide the application 'Condor', which offers the full Wikimaps functionality and allows searches for any article or topic.