From Topic Networks to Distributed Cognitive Maps: Zipfian Topic Universes in the Area of Volunteered Geographic Information

by   Alexander Mehler, et al.

Are nearby places (e.g. cities) described by related words? In this article we transfer this research question in the field of lexical encoding of geographic information onto the level of intertextuality. To this end, we explore Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) to model texts addressing places at the level of cities or regions with the help of so-called topic networks. This is done to examine how language encodes and networks geographic information on the aboutness level of texts. Our hypothesis is that the networked thematizations of places are similar - regardless of their distances and the underlying communities of authors. To investigate this we introduce Multiplex Topic Networks (MTN), which we automatically derive from Linguistic Multilayer Networks (LMN) as a novel model, especially of thematic networking in text corpora. Our study shows a Zipfian organization of the thematic universe in which geographical places (especially cities) are located in online communication. We interpret this finding in the context of cognitive maps, a notion which we extend by so-called thematic maps. According to our interpretation of this finding, the organization of thematic maps as part of cognitive maps results from a tendency of authors to generate shareable content that ensures the continued existence of the underlying media. We test our hypothesis by example of special wikis and extracts of Wikipedia. In this way we come to the conclusion: Places, whether close to each other or not, are located in neighboring places that span similar subnetworks in the topic universe.


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