Understanding Wikipedia’s dark matter: translation, knowledge and point of view

    Project: Research project

    Project Details


    In this research we refer to translation as Wikipedia’s ‘dark matter’: we know it must be there but it is often difficult to locate. We use a number of approaches to track it down: identifying the rare cases where its presence is documented, comparing extracts from different parallel articles or digging back into the articles’ history to discover the origin of translated text fragments. The principle investigator has already applied these techniques to multilingual article sets about the assassination of Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov and the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and has found that some of the articles resemble collages assembled from small text fragments some of which have been imported from another article within the set – very likely via a reference to an external news source included in that article.

    We plan to perform a detailed investigation of two or three multilingual article sets chronicling major, rapidly-developing news stories relating to Russia and including significant pages in Chinese, Russian and English plus a relatively open-ended number of others. Identifying the translated material, establishing what it is a translation of and tracking the fate of each translated fragment once inserted in an article are time- consuming tasks requiring detailed, painstaking work but are also necessary stages in the research. Checking for accuracy is not what drives us; what is of interest, rather, is whether these fragments support an article’s point of view and whether the knowledge that each supposedly parallel article contains is therefore in some way distinctive, providing its readers with a somewhat different presentation and interpretation of events. These are important considerations, not least in the light of Wikipedia’s policy of pursuing a neutral point of view: based on the work already carried out by the principal investigator a link does appear to exist between translation and point of view construction, although we are hoping that the project will allow us to draw more wide- ranging conclusions about what that link is. To assist us we will use a number of existing digital tools and plan to develop additional ones. We believe this project will increase our understanding of the dynamics that govern the multilingual Wikipedia and will provide translation studies with valuable case studies on a special type of collaborative translation. The results, we hope, will also be of interest outside academia, and we will ensure that our findings, tools and datasets are made widely available.
    Effective start/end date1/01/2031/12/22


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