Maps have long served as a tool for colonialism, by promoting conquest, dividing up land, and asserting ownership. This 16th century Europa Regina map exemplifies this, by positioning Europe as a world ruler, and sequestering other continents off to the sidelines. Indeed, maps often distort the size and shape of the world, so that European powers seem the most prominent and powerful within the image.
The advent of many new digital tools has given us means to push back against the dominant narratives that maps tell us about our world. Tools like this map puzzle allow us to see how projections distort the sizes of certain countries. Mapping projects like those at Radical Cartography give us a window into how we can represent geospatial information differently and critically.
Digital platforms like Wikipedia also give us the opportunity to present new and different information about the world that could not necessarily be contained in paper resources. In that spirit, the Office of Digital Research and Scholarship is hosting a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon, in collaboration with the Department of Art History and the Caribes project. The focus of the edit-a-thon will be topics related to the Caribbean. We will edit and correct existing pages to add more resources, citations, and information. We will also create new pages about important topics that have not been entered into Wikipedia yet.
For the occasion, I decided to create a map of the Wikipedia stubs related to the Caribbean. I focused on the Caribbean buildings and structures stub list, since this project is a collaboration with an Caribbean architecture project (Caribes). I found the geographical coordinates for all of the entries that were categorized as stubs. This allows us to visualize the areas of the Caribbean that have less complete information in Wikipedia.
Mapping could be used to visualize many other gaps in Wikipedia’s information base, and this is certainly not the only area in which Wikipedia is lacking. However, digital tools and resources like digital maps and Wikipedia could allow us to shift the focus towards important but underrepresented figures, events, and movements in the world’s history. However, we can only accomplish this if we put time into building out those information sources.
Join us this Thursday April 14th, from 10a-2p in the Art and Design Library (2020 WJB) for the Caribbean Wikipedia edit-a-thon. Bring a laptop if you can, and we’ll provide the training, treats, and text resources.