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Researchers Pinpoint Real-life Zombie Hotspots

| 26 Sep 2011 20:39
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Zombies may not talk much, but they can help analysts learn about language bias on the web.

Zombies don't have much to say beyond the occasional guttural growl or moan, but it turns out that they exhibit a clear preference when it comes to language. A team of data analysts recently plugged the word "zombies" into Google Maps and made a population density map out of the results. The outcome does not look promising for English speakers: North America and Western Europe were home to the highest concentrations of "zombies." Rather than predicting a zombie apocalypse, though, the study suggests that finding information on the web - particularly when it involves distinctive words - is disproportionately easier in English.

"The results either provide a rough proxy for the amount of English-language content indexed over our planet, or offer an early warning into the geographies of the impending zombie apocalypse," says Mark Graham, one of the minds behind the project. The first option is more likely. English speakers comprise less than a third of the world's population, but index prolific amounts of web content for easy searching. Of the 5,000+ results on Google Map for "zombies," only a handful exist in South America, Asia, and Africa, and even fewer are in languages other than English.

While the results may be indicative of the English language's overrepresentation on the web, the study offers little basis for comparison. "Zombie" is a distinctly English word, so it's only natural that Anglophone countries would reference it far more often than their neighbors. Zombies are also a popular topic for entertainment media in English, so the lopsided results could be due to regional popularity.

Taken on its own, the map still represents an intriguing snapshot into the world of multilingual web indexing - or of an impending zombie apocalypse.

Source: The Guardian

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