Submissions:2023/Building a Global Municipal Atlas: A Speculative Vision

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This submission has been noted and is pending review for WikiConference North America 2023.


Building a Global Municipal Atlas: A Speculative Vision


Open Data, Wild Ideas

Type of session:



This very short lecture / very long lightning talk makes a pitch for a new arena of Wikimedia or Wiki-adjacent work around making systematic data at the subnational level easily accessible.

Thanks to the work of Wikipedians and OpenStreetMap participants, the encyclopedia and the street map have acquired global and digital forms in ways that will be perpetually open and free. And a significant portion of Wikipedia is devoted to lists, choropleth maps, and wide-ranging infoboxes that centralize information by nation-state. Yet information on the subnational level is much thinner and more fragmented, rarely (with a few exceptions) extending wider than a handful of countries or deeper to the municipality level.

At the same time, the open data community, freely shareable data sources, and cartographic datasets like the Database of Global Administrative Areas make it increasingly easy to write code that produces lists, static and interactive maps, and Wikidata statements that encode well-sourced factual information at subnational levels.

This talk lays out the components of data sourcing and sharing, data wrangling, and code sharing among researchers and volunteer data scientists that would be needed to produce a open global municipal atlas that everyone can trust in the same way they trust Wikipedia, and whose reliably sourced data could regularly and automatically inform Wikidata items, Wikipedia infoboxes, maps, and bot-generated text content on Wikipedia.

Author name:

Carwil Bjork-James

E-mail address:

Wikimedia username:


Affiliated organization(s):

Vanderbilt University

Estimated time:


Special requests:

Have you presented on this topic previously? If yes, where/when?:


Okay to livestream?

Livestreaming is okay

If your submission is not accepted, would you be open to presenting your topic in another part of the program? (e.g. lightning talk or unconference session)

Please throw this into a wild idea session, or an open data/cartographic one. Failing that, I'm happy to make a lightning talk.