Tuesday, 22 March 2011

The 100 Second History of the World

This is a fascinating piece of grassroots history: the video animates a timeline of all Wikipedia's historical events which are given a geotag. As time advances, recorded history spreads across the globe - or some of it.

A History of the World in 100 Seconds from Gareth Lloyd on Vimeo.

Apart from being beautiful, does it mean anything? Well, sort of. It's not about history. It's about Wikipedia and access to information. To be recorded in this video, an event has to be deemed worthy of inclusion. Who are the gatekeepers? Most of Wikipedia's contributors and editors are decent liberal people with a curious and informed attitude, but I'm willing to bet that they're an elite of European or European-ancestry white people from capitalist Western countries. Note that Africa remains largely dark on the map despite being the place from which we all emerged. Has nothing happened there? Of course it has: but African history is largely understood the history of what white people did there: I know very little about the continent between the formation of the Rift Valley and the foundation of the Royal African Company (with an uptick around Rome v. Carthage and Egypt). Other events are lost, unrecorded, absent from European-language accounts or seen as less important than other categories of activity.

This isn't to say that this video isn't fascinating and a useful piece of historiography: it dramatises cultural relativism in a way a lecture couldn't.

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