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Historical reference

From Meta, a Wikimedia project coordination wiki

This is a suggestion to make Wikipedia events more browseable by place as well as time, and also to support visualisations of events on the map over time.

It involves the introduction of one item of meta-data to each Wikipedia page which represents an event. The types of meta-data we might consider are:

  • Time/place reference: A page representing an historical event can be assigned a time (duration) and a place (Geospatial reference).
  • Fuzzy time/place reference: for prehistoric estimates, eg. when and where the dinosaurs lived. (This might be best represented by graphs of probabilities).
  • Complex time/place reference:
    • If Geospatial references are 2D, then complex time/place references are blobs in a 3D space.
    • In advanced representations, the shape of the area might change over time (spread of telephone communications), may have holes in it (China missing Hong Kong between 1897 and 1997), or be fragmented (Communist governance). These could be reserved for later implementation.

An example use-case: Someone is interested in learning about WW2. They zoom in on Europe and, starting in July 1938, ask the map to plot the "area of Nazi occupation", along with any smaller events that took place that month. They can step forward one month at a time, investigating the Wikipedia pages describing the small events that took place, and they can get a good picture of what happened, and what areas of the world were affected. The software to perform the visualisation might not run on Wikipedia, but Wikipedia could simply host the meta-data.

  • Conclusion: Pages which are events (or people's lives) can have a (complex and or fuzzy) 3D space-time blob to represent when and where they happened.

Please give feedback.

  • Maybe Wikipedia is not the best place to store this information, but the event descriptions could still come from Wikipedia.