The semantic web of interlinked data sources has become an integral element of our digital information ecosystem. In the semantic web, knowledge is being “datafied” into highly formalized and factual information pieces that can be processed, computed and recombined across different contexts and application scenarios. A significant part of the semantic web comprises geographical knowledge, i.e. semantic data about places and spaces. This geospatial semantic web represents a shift in how we produce, organize and acquire geographical knowledge, which is being segmented into a myriad of semantically structured machine-readable spatial data points. However, in a datafied form, knowledge loses context, nuance and provenance and end users of semantic web services, like search engines for example, can hardly assess the biases and partialities inherent to the results they are confronted with. Thus, while the geosemantic web is becoming an ever more seamless digital infrastructure, we still know little about the contingent social production contexts of semantic data.
Drawing on literature from the fields of critical knowledge geographies and digital geographies, this project intends to open a critical perspective onto the geospatial semantic web. In particular, it aims to explore the social dimensions of the geo-knowledge base Wikidata – a universal, highly dynamic, freely editable, semantic database of factual knowledge which is currently evolving into a core component of the semantic web’s architecture.
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