Contributors to World Literature – Identifying Writers in Wikipedia, Part I

by Robert Jäschke and Frank Fischer

The first challenge we face when trying to analyse the representation of world literature on Wikipedia is the automatic identification of literary writers and works across all 280+ language versions. Our last posts have shown how to extract works that are possible candidates for a Wikipedia-inherent world-literary canon (Wikidata-based and DBpedia-based). In this 2-part post we focus on the extraction of writers, i.e., possible contributors to world literature.

For a start, let us have a detailed look at the Wikipedia page of John Irving:

Wikipedia Page of John Irving

This web page has several features indicating that John Irving is a writer we want to have in our set. Let’s introduce and discuss six of them:

  1. The first sentence says that John Irving is a novelist and screenwriter:

    The first sentence on the Wikipedia Page of John Irving

  2. The table of contents lists a bibliography:

    The table of contents on the Wikipedia page of John Irving

  3. The infobox on the right has an occupation property with values “Novelist” and “Screenwriter”:

    The infobox on the Wikipedia page of John Irving

  4. Scrolling down, the John Irving template assembles a list of works by the author:

    The "John Irving" template on the Wikipedia page of John Irving

  5. Scrolling down further, we find a list of categories, among them 20th-century American novelists, 21st-century American novelists, American feminist writers, and American male screenwriters:

    The categories of the Wikipedia page of John Irving

  6. In addition, by looking at the wiki source code of the page we realise that the infobox uses the writer template:

    The source code of the "writer" template of the Wikipedia page of John Irving

To leverage one of these features to automatically identify John Irving (and others, of course) as a writer, we have to answer these questions:

  1. Which of the information is universally available (i.e., in different language versions)?
  2. Which of the information is available through DBpedia or Wikidata?
  3. How widespread is the information used?
  4. How easy is it to actually use the information to identify writers?

We will discuss these questions tomorrow in the 2nd part of this blog post.

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