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Analysing Timelines of National Histories across Wikipedia Editions: A Comparative Computational Approach

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Abstract

Portrayals of history are never complete, and each description inherently exhibits a specific viewpoint and emphasis. In this paper, we aim to automatically identify such differences by computing timelines and detecting temporal focal points of written history across languages on Wikipedia. In particular, we study articles related to the history of all UN member states and compare them in 30 language editions. We develop a computational approach that allows to identify focal points quantitatively, and find that Wikipedia narratives about national histories (i) are skewed towards more recent events (recency bias) and (ii) are distributed unevenly across the continents with significant focus on the history of European countries (Eurocentric bias). We also establish that national historical timelines vary across language editions, although average interlingual consensus is rather high. We hope that this paper provides a starting point for a broader computational analysis of written history on Wikipedia and elsewhere.

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... We retrieve from article texts all date mentions (in the form of 4-digit numbers between 1000-1999), and use them as a unit of comparison [45] across the datasets. To asses temporal coverage differences, we apply a randomisationbased filtering method [46] and subsequently, statistical inference. Our empirical results are validated by history experts. ...
... Apart from qualitative research, several approaches have been used to quantify history on a large scale, including network science [25,38,48,50], mathematical modelling and prediction [28,52], text mining and topic detection [5,37], and temporal event extraction [5,46]. None of them, however, have been applied to compare historical content of online encyclopedias. ...
... Method: A Null Model of focal points. In order to extract the focal points, we adapt to our dataset the randomisation technique introduced in [46]. We first create a pool M of all collected dates. ...
Conference Paper
In this paper we present a large-scale quantitative comparison between expert- and crowdsourced writing of history by analysing articles from the English Wikipedia and Britannica. In order to quantify attention to particular periods, we extract mentioned year numbers and utilise them to study historical timelines of nations stretched over the last thousand years. By combining this temporal analysis with lexical analysis of both encyclopedic corpora we can identify distinctive historiographic points of view in each encyclopedia. We find that Britannica focuses on social and cultural phenomena, e.g. religion, as well as the geographical characteristics of states, while Wikipedia puts emphasis on political aspects, concentrating on wars and violent conflicts, and events of high popularity. Finally, both encyclopedias exhibit characteristics of English Academic prose, with Britannica being slightly less readable compared to Wikipedia, according to several readability scores.
... Iako takva postavka počiva na inovativnoj platformi s većim stepenom demokratičnosti, ona ne uspeva da izbegne zamke koje muče i tradicionalnu, akademsku istoriografiju. Istraživanje Ane Samoilenko i saradnika (Samoilenko, Lemmerich, Weller, Zens & Strohmaier, 2017) (1) Nema vremenske distance -krupan događaj koji se danas desio može još u toku dana postati enciklopedijski članak 3 . Iako ovakva brzopletost blokira ili slabi neke od ključnih mehanizama istoriografije (nepristrasnost, distanciranost, konsultovanje više izvora, sagledavanje šireg društvenog, političkog i istorijskog konteksta), "čak 77% članaka o skorim traumatičnim događajima, tj. ...
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... When it comes to history, Wikipedia narratives are biased towards recent events and those happening in Western Europe (Samoilenko et al. 2017b;Samoilenko et al. 2017a). Partially because of this, there is an explicit Wikipedia policy against "recentism"4. ...
Preprint
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... Several independent studies have covered specific aspects of cultural differences on Wikipedia. It was found that Wikipedia language editions have a high degree of self-focus, i.e., bias towards the knowledge of the editor community [10,21] and set different priorities on the information included [5,13,17,30]. Those studies all focus on the editor or content perspective of Wikipedia, while in this paper we investigate the motivations and behaviors of readers. ...
Conference Paper
As one of the Web's primary multilingual knowledge sources, Wikipedia is read by millions of people across the globe every day. Despite this global readership, little is known about why users read Wikipedia's various language editions. To bridge this gap, we conduct a comparative study by combining a large-scale survey of Wikipedia readers across 14 language editions with a log-based analysis of user activity. We proceed in three steps. First, we analyze the survey results to compare the prevalence of Wikipedia use cases across languages, discovering commonalities, but also substantial differences, among Wikipedia languages with respect to their usage. Second, we match survey responses to the respondents' traces in Wikipedia's server logs to characterize behavioral patterns associated with specific use cases, finding that distinctive patterns consistently mark certain use cases across language editions. Third, we show that certain Wikipedia use cases are more common in countries with certain socio-economic characteristics; e.g., in-depth reading of Wikipedia articles is substantially more common in countries with a low Human Development Index. These findings advance our understanding of reader motivations and behaviors across Wikipedia languages and have implications for Wikipedia editors and developers of Wikipedia and other Web technologies.
... Initially, Wikipedia was introduced only in English edition, while at present it is available in 288 different language editions 2 . Multilingual property of Wikipedia influences many researchers to carry out comparative studies across languages from the various aspects [13,16,17,19]. ...
Chapter
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... While "Architecture" includes articles covering popular buildings, landmarks and municipalities, "Military" consists of articles covering significant historic events often associated with violence such as wars and notable battles, along with many articles dedicated to military units, personnel and equipment (cf. [28]). For the general access behavior concerning the network, content and edit features, we again assign the articles to one of 25 bins according to their k-core and revision counts, compute the distribution of searchshare and resistance for each bin, and plot the quartiles (cf. Figure 8). ...
Preprint
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The abstract for this document is available on CSA Illumina.To view the Abstract, click the Abstract button above the document title.
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Like consciousness and language, human memory is acquired through communication, socialization, and acculturation. It is, therefore, about both one’s brain and one’s social and cultural relations and comprises three dimensions: the personal, social, and cultural. Human memory is “embodied” in living personal memories and “embedded” in social frames and external cultural symbols (e.g., texts, images, and rituals) that can be acknowledged as a memory function insofar as they are related to the self-image or “identity” of a tribal, national, and/or religious community. Whereas the social or “collective” memory comprises knowledge commonly shared by a given society in a given epoch, cultural memory in literate societies includes not only a “canon” of normative knowledge but also an “archive” of apocryphal material that may be rediscovered and brought to the fore in later epochs. The formation of a canon of “classical” or sacred texts requires techniques of interpretation to keep accessible the meaning of the texts that may no longer be altered or multiplied. At that stage of cultural evolution, cultural memory changes from ritual to textual continuity. Cultural memory becomes complex, splitting into the “classical” and the “modern,” the “sacred” and the “secular.”
Presidential Address of the CHA: Public history and its discontents or history in the age of Wikipedia
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A network framework of cultural history
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