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What a Wikipedia Video Game Can Teach Us About Politics

The Donald Trump solar system will surprise you.

by Beckett Mufson
Aug 7 2016, 12:05pm

We explore the cosmos to find answers to the unknown, but what if you could explore knowledge itself in the same way? Enter Wikiverse, which is essentially Wikipedia, the video game: hundreds of thousands of articles that you explore as if you're flying a space ship through planets and stars. Stars, a.k.a. Wikipedia entries, are clustered together according to their hyperlinks, forming solar systems, star clusters, and galaxies of related concepts. 

We've been Wikiverse explorers since French programmer Owen Cornec first said, "Let there be light," to the HTML, CSS, and WebGL-supported Chrome Experiment back in 2014, but a new update has expanded his digital galaxy several orders of magnitude and added features that provide stellar insights into the terrestrial realm. The new version grows his approximation of human knowledge from 50,000 articles to a whopping 250,000, grouping similar subjects into categories like art, music, and politics. Once you've gotten used to zooming around the dazzling 3D space, you begin to notice unexpected connections between entries.

"In this universe, articles are threaded together through a physics based simulation. Millions of inter-page links, chosen by thousands of editors, pull and tug at each other to groups stars together. These choices crystallize articles into clusters and domains, where proximity equates to related-ness" Cornec explains. For example, orbiting Kanye West are expected entries like Kim Kardashian, Taylor Swift, and the loop, but "I Want Candy" by Aaron Carter and Tim Armstrong's band, Rancid, are there too. The connections are even more fascinating in the politics quadrant, which was dominated by Donald Trump last week and Hillary Clinton this week. Trump's entry might be the most fascinating in the miniature universe, binding together a blinding mix of art deco, alcoholism, Dr. Seuss, the Bible, Citizen Kane, conspiracy theories, and the Czech Republic.

Explore Trump's strange solar system and find your own favorite corner of the Wikiverse here.

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Tagged:
Space
Donald Trump
Creators
data visualization
kanye west
WebGL
Owen Cornec
chrome experiment
wikiverse