I'm Carmen Mouynes a student at American University currently in a class about Wikipedia.
Wikipedia and Society Final Project
The first difference we see between Spanish Wikipedia (SW) and English Wikipedia (EW) is the fact that English Wikipedia has over 4 million articles while Spanish Wikipedia only has over 1 million. This is curious since Spanish Wikipedia serves all of Latin America and Spain but still has fewer articles. What are the types of articles that EW has that SW doesn’t have? Another difference we can see is that some articles are more complete depending on their subject and their relevance to the region. To further my understanding I decided to compare a different array of subjects from science topics to historical events. My hypothesis is that there are notable difference between the portrayal of topics depending on the topic and its relevance to the region. I hope that through my research ill be able to notice specifically what these differences are and what cultural factors might fall behind them.
The first and most noticeable difference between the Wikipedia is the volume of the articles in the two of them. One of the reasons why this happens has to do with how English Wikipedia’s main page is changed daily and how it serves as more of a type of news source than just encyclopedia. With the Lunar eclipse on April 15th 2014, we see that in the English Wikipedia it became a featured article while in Spanish Wikipedia, it didn’t even get its own article. With this example we can see one of the factors that affect the great difference between the number of articles has to do with how EW strives to inform on current events while they are relevant so they can keep constant traffic within the Wikipedia.
For the rest of the project I will be comparing the different articles that I selected to serve as examples where we could see cultural references among the two. The list goes as follows: Geographical Articles: North America, Central America Entertainment Articles: Shakira, Beyoncé Historical events: Iraq war, Operation Just Cause Relevant People Articles: Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Bill Gates
The first articles I am comparing are “North America” in EW, and “America del Norte” in SW. While looking at both their Revision History statistics, we can see that in EW that the number of total revisions is over 5,900 while in SW there were a little over 2100. The real notable difference comes in edits per month, in EW these edits were over 35.89 while in SP they where little over 14. With this specific example we can see that EW has a more complete article with 14 different categories while in SW there were only 11.The categories not included in SW that were included in EW are “usage of term” and “infrastructure.” When talking about the content of the article I couldn’t see any major differences in how the information was presented, also most information present was very similar.
Second articles I am comparing are “Central America” and “America Central.” Again, first I looked at their Revision History to see the difference between the total revisions for both articles. Again my hypothesis is proven in that the number of total revision is greater for “America Central” than it is for “Central America.” The number of total revisions for Central America is a little over 2000 while America Central has over 3200 edits. As for the number of average edits per month, in America central we have 24.6 while 14.01. With this information and the one for the previous articles compared we can see that depending on the region involving the Wikipedia there are difference between traffic as well as edits. As for the article’s content, in SW we have a much more complete article with over 11 different categories with a total of 20 sub categories that further detail the important facts about the region. In EW we have a much less complete article that doesn’t have as many sub categories with important facts about the region.
If we compare the SW article about North America, with the EW article of Central America we can see the obvious difference on how the two Wikipedia manage their information. While Spanish Wikipedia served a complete article on North America, English Wikipedia did not do such a complete job of the Central American Article. With further research I would like to see whether or not this trend repeats itself in other articles under the same situation.
To move on from geographical articles, my next topic is entertainment articles. The two artists I picked for this section both represent a part of the culture of the two Wikipedia. Beyoncé will serve as my example for representing the EW culture while Shakira is meant to represent the SW Wikipedia culture. Both these artists are known and famous in both regions and should both have similar representations in Wikipedia, no matter in which one.
The next subject I wanted to focus on was relevant people. For this subject I picked again two people who have a worldly presence and would both deserve equal recognition in their Wikipedia article. To represent SW I picked author Gabriel Garcia Marquez who recently passed away in April of 2014. The other person I picked was Bill Gates to represent EW since I feel he is an important figure of the English-speaking world. At first glance comparing Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ both articles, they seem to have the same amount of information and the same type of information. While the SW version seems to be redacted a little bit differently and it also talks more about the style and the symbolism. In this particular example I also looked at the number of visits for the day of his passing to see which of the two has a higher number of visits, and I could see that it was SW’s page did with over 4,000 more views. As for the number of edits on both, SW did have some more but not as much as I would have thought. When looking at Bill Gate’s articles, we can see that there is an obvious difference with EW having much more information than the article for SW. Although SW has his complete biography, it is still missing most of the information that EW have. EW includes details about his personal life and more of what he has done before and after Microsoft. As for the number of edits as it is to be expected EW has over 10,000 more edits than SW. From this we can see that there are instances where the person’s origin affects the status of his article.
It seems that in the entertainment subject both Wikipedia are given an equal amount of attention. I found these two articles to be similar in content (SW having slightly more information) while their revision history statistics show the obvious differences. In the EW there have been over 18,800 revisions while the SW only has over 3,000. However, as mentioned before we can see that the information in both is very similar. In this article in particular since it is a famous public figure around the world it is expected that the information should be the same for everyone. We can see though that the number of edits for EW was greater. The number of edits per month is also greater with EW having over 134 while SW has little over 30. To further understand how Wikipedia stands with the entertainment section, Shakira should show differences as well.
The differences between the Shakira articles are notable but not as much as I expected. The number of total revisions is much larger in EW than in SW, with EW having over 11,000 edits and SW having over 6,000 edits. The average number of edits is also larger in EW than in SW. From the entertainment part we can see that cultural differences are not so noticeable due to the fact that both artists are incredibly famous in both regions. In this particular section we cant support the original hypothesis. For my two topics regarding historical events I chose the Iraq war and the invasion of Panama. Both these topics involve the US and one of them also involves a country in Central America. I chose these two topics since I feel that through studying both of them I can see the different portrayals of the events (if they are different) depending on the region that was involved in the conflict. It has been suggested that the Panama invasion has two sides, the American side and the Panamanian one I am going to see whether or not this comes up in the Wikipedia. When comparing the Iraq war on both encyclopedias I can see that in matters of content they are very similar with the EW version having some more information. In checking the overall statistics for both versions, we can see that the number of edits for the SW with a little over 1500 is much less than EW with over 15,000 edits. As for the number of edits per month, there is an even bigger difference with 12.4 edits per month in SW and over 117 in EW. In looking at the article for the invasion of Panama we can see some clear differences in the information presented. For example SW mentions that the death count for Panamanians was over 3,000 people however it mentions that there is no official number on record while EW suggest there were 516 casualties with an internal Army memo bringing it up to 1,000. From other information gathered in the past, it can be safe to say that the number is more similar to SW version. In the SW version of the article they mention the fact that the United State’s actions where condemned by the UN and the OAS; while there is no mention of such thing in the EW version. From this example we can safely assume that our hypothesis proves that there are certain articles with reference to certain historical events that might be portrayed differently because of the origin of the editor.
From this research I tried to look at some important categories that would help me further understand the differences between the articles in the two Wikipedia. In it I learned that while there are some differences to how articles are written and the information they include, for the most part both seemed to have mostly complete information and both serve their purpose of informing the reader interested on the subject. One of the most important things I wanted to see was whether or not certain topics that involve the region the Wikipedia represent were tainted by the interpretation of the events from the certain region. I did see that in the case of important historical events where information about the Panama Invasion seemed to be different than in both Wikipedia. The question this example leaves is, is it the editor’s fault or does it have more to do with the fact that that was the information he received on the subject due to his specific geographical region? This raises then another question, is EW more focused on the American or English –speaking regions’ point of view of things or is it truly impartial? It is obvious that EW does have more articles and more edits in most articles but I did see that in some cases where the topic was more relevant to the Spanish-speaking region they would overcome those of EW. I think that the main reason why English Wikipedia keeps on growing like it does and SW does not at the same pace is that EW is more aware of current events and make it a point of making it part of their day to day creations. During my time in the class studying Wikipedia and how it worked I did become a fan of its commitment to include NPOV in its articles to truly serve as an encyclopedia however I do feel that after this small study I conducted I did find that regions do interpret events or even people differently and that in turn affects the way articles are created. I do still believe that there should be more guidelines for translation between Wikipedia so they can all complement each other and in turn give a truly worldly definition of all topics. For example, people editing English Wikipedia for topics not involving the region should consider finding other sources outside of their native region that way we can have a more complete and truly impartial Wikipedia that includes all sides to a story. As for articles that transcend their region like the entertainment example of my project, we can see that there is a way to have all the information needed regardless of what the origin of the article comes from.