Global Data Map of Zombies

October 6, 2011

A group of researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute have recently mapped the global distribution of content on Google Maps containing the word ‘Zombie’. Interestingly the word does not occur in Haiti. The closest place is Puerto Rico, with the lowest level incidence of references. The zombie search epicenters seem to be in the metropolitan areas of the US and Western Europe. A full resolution image of the map can be found here: Mapping zombies.

Although this zombie map is most explicitly relevant for Zonbi Diaspora (the name of which was changed recently from ‘Zombie’ to ‘Zonbi’ for reasons I will explain later), some of the other maps on the ‘Visualizing Data’ site have more implicit value in terms of the Ghetto Biennale and the work of Tele Geto. The visualization of the user-generated ‘georeferenced’ content on the internet shows the dominance of material from the USA and Canada and the relatively small amount generated in Latin American and the Caribbean. The Internet Penetration, Literacy and Gender and Location of Academic Knowledge visualizations gives us a background story. What they indicate is a clear information-knowledge imbalance which is amplified by the internet.

An underlying assumption of Zonbi Diaspora is that the migration of the zonbi/zombie figure from pre-slavery West Africa to contemporary zombie films followed paths which coincided with the evolution of communications media. The transition from a folkloric Haitian legend to a ghoulish horror figure coincided with the convergence of exotic western travel literature, sensationalist newspaper reporting and early cinema. This is not the whole story. But the informational-mediatic dimension of the story is fundamental here.

I contacted Mark Graham, one of the creators of the map and asked him why he had chosen to plot the word ‘zombie’? What was the background for this choice?

‘I guess just a small obsession with zombies that I have. Together with Matt Zook and Taylor Shelton, I’ve also co-authored a chapter on zombies that should be out in a book called ‘Zombies in the Academy’ next year’.

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