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Mapping information wealth and poverty: the geography of gazetteers

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journal contribution
posted on 2016-03-09, 09:38 authored by M. Graham, Stefano De Sabbata
Gazetteers are dictionaries of geographic place-names that have important implications far beyond the worlds of geographers and cartographers. By containing ‘definitive’ lists of places, gazetteers have the ontological power to define what will and will not be geocoded and represented in databases, maps, search engines, and ultimately our spatial understandings of place. This paper focuses attention on GeoNames, which is the world's largest freely available and widely used gazetteer. We illustrate how content in GeoNames is characterised by highly uneven spatial distributions. There are dense clusters of place-names in some parts of the world and a relative absence of geographic content in others. These patterns are related not just to the wealth and population size of a country, but also to its policies on Internet access and open data. The paper then traces some of the specific implications of this information inequality: showing how biases in gazetteers are propagated in a variety of geographic meaning-making.

History

Citation

Environment and Planning A, 2015, 47(6), pp. 1254-1264

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SCIENCE AND ENGINEERING/Department of Geography

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Environment and Planning A

Publisher

SAGE Publications

issn

0308-518X

eissn

1472-3409

Copyright date

2015

Available date

2016-03-09

Publisher version

http://epn.sagepub.com/content/47/6/1254.abstract

Language

en

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