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Where Do Wikipedia’s Editors Live? A Geographical Analysis

Anyone can edit or create a Wikipedia entry. But “just because anyone can edit, doesn’t mean that everyone does,” Professor Michael Mandiberg (College of Staten Island, The Graduate Center) writes in The Atlantic.

Mandiberg notes that Wikipedia’s editors are “disproportionately cis white men from the global North.” Mandiberg, who produces a Print Wikipedia, says there are also geographic disparities. He’s created a set of maps that show where the site’s millions of volunteer editors are located — “and, maybe more important, where they aren’t.”

Mandiberg created the maps by parsing all of English Wikipedia’s 884 million edits and the 43 million IP addresses where they originated. Among his findings:

  • Globally, after the U.S., the top countries for English-language Wikipedia editing activity are the United Kingdom, India, Canada, Australia, Germany, Brazil, Italy, and France.  
  • Editing activity does not necessarily correlate with voting patterns. “Some swing states exhibit lots of editing across the state; in others, the activity isn’t distributed evenly.” California shows “strong participation” in historically Republican Orange County and San Diego. And “households in conservative upstate New York are as likely to contribute as ones in New York City, except for the two upstate counties (Lewis and Hamilton) that are also among the most religious and politically conservative in the state.”
  • Editing patterns tend to correlate with high levels of population density, income, education, and broadband access. Mandiberg hypothesizes that poverty and racial inequity explain low editing activity across the South from East Texas to Virginia, a region with the country’s highest concentration of African Americans. Southern cities with low levels of editing activity include Jackson, Mississippi; Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; and Atlanta. Similarly, “nearly all counties with majority Native American populations have low editing rates.” 
  • Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska jump out as states with a low percentage of households with Wikipedia editing activity. Those states are also among the country’s least densely populated, though other states with large swaths of sparsely populated areas – Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, Alaska, and Maine — show robust participation in the top 40% and in some cases the top 20% of Wikipedia-editing activity nationwide. 
  • Areas with ”high religious adherence” also show lower Wikipedia-editing activity than those with low religious adherence.

Beyond SUM

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Mapping Wikipedia
The Atlantic, 2020

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Michael Mandiberg (Professor, Media Culture) | Profile 1 | Profile 2 | Profile 3 | Profile 4