The_Tower_of_Babel.jpg: Diversity of Visual Encyclopedic Knowledge Across Wikipedia Language Editions
Shiqing He, Allen Yilun Lin, Eytan Adar, and Brent Hecht

Across all Wikipedia language editions, millions of images augment text in critical ways. This visual encyclopedic knowledge is an important form of wikiwork for editors, a critical part of reader experience, an emerging resource for machine learning, and a lens into cultural differences. However, Wikipedia research--and cross-language edition Wikipedia research in particular--has thus far been limited to text. In this paper, we assess the diversity of visual encyclopedic knowledge across 25 language editions and compare our findings to those reported for textual content. Unlike text, translation in images is largely unnecessary. Additionally, the Wikimedia Foundation, through the Wikipedia Commons, has taken steps to simplify cross-language image sharing. While we may expect that these factors would reduce image diversity, we find that cross-language image diversity rivals, and often exceeds, that found in text. We find that diversity varies between language pairs and content types, but that many images are unique to different language editions. Our findings have implications for readers (in what imagery they see), for editors (in deciding what images to use), for researchers (who study cultural variations), and for machine learning developers (who use Wikipedia for training models).

Pre-print: PDF, (13Mb), Supplement/Demo, to appear, ICWSM'18