That’s not a Lite-Brite representation of North America above this article. It’s not a photo of some dorm room blacklight poster, either. What you see above is actually much more meaningful: a visual representation of the continent according to how different regions access Wikipedia in different languages. Mapping Wikipedia, as the project is called, came about as a collaboration between the Oxford Internet Institute and TraceMedia. The glowing, ISS-view night-vision of earth you see in the map represents the density of all the geo-located articles from a variety of languages.
Users can select one or more language from English, French, Arabic, Egyptian Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, and Swahili. If you’re curious as to why all the selection of languages seem Middle East-centric, that’s because the project is a part of a larger effort to understand how Wikipedia is accessed in the Middle East and North Africa. The map itself, as you see, was developed using Google Maps API.
In addition to looking at different languages and locations, you can change your search to reflect different components of Wikipedia, such as the density of authors in a region, anonymous edits, section depth, and word count. Depending on what you search for, you’ll see a legend in the bottom-left corner that tells you which colors indicate which density.
The Oxford Internet Institute had a very academic reason for collecting the data that helped create the map, but for the mere aesthete, the map is a beautiful work of art.