A tool for extracting and indexing spatio-temporal information from biographical articles in Wikipedia

Candidate: Emily Morton-Owens
Advisor: Ernest Davis


The Kivrin program, consisting of a crawler, a data collection, and a front-end interface, attempts to extract biographical information from Wikipedia, specifically, spatio-temporal information--who was where when--and make it easily searchable. Some of the considerations standard to moving object databases do not apply in this context, because the texts by their nature discuss a discontinuous series of notable moments. The paper discusses different methods of arranging the crawler queue priority to find more important figures and of disambiguating locations when the same place name (toponym) is shared among several places. When lifespan information is not available, it is estimated to exclude sightings outside the person's plausible lifetime.

The results are grouped by the number of sightings in the user's search range to minimize the visibility of false drops when they occur. Erroneous results are more visible in times and places where fewer legitimate sightings are recorded; the data is skewed, like Wikipedia itself, towards the U.S. and Western Europe and relatively recent history. The system could be most improved by using statistical methods to predict which terms are more likely personal names than place names and to identify verbs that precede location information rather than personal names. It could also be improved by incorporating the times as a third dimension in the geospatial index, which would allow "near" queries to include that dimension rather than a strict range.

The program can be used at http://linserv1.cims.nyu.edu:48866/cgi-bin/index.cgi