Researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute have used online data to construct a map of zombie awareness across the world. The hope is that it could “offer an early warning into the geographies of the impending zombie apocalypse”.
Using Google’s database of media and other content stored around the globe, a team led by Dr Mark Graham was able to represent graphically the number of references to zombies in different areas. Part of the institute’s popular ‘Visualisations’ series, the map is interpreted as representing the level of public awareness about zombies.
Graham commented, “The maps shows where the most content/information containing the word zombie shows up in Google Maps.”
“Broadly speaking I am interested in the geography of information. I’m also a big fan of (or terrified of) zombies. So decided to combine the two interests in order to examine the geography of references to zombies on the Internet.”
Given the popularity of films such as ‘Shaun of the Dead’, the Western world unsurprisingly shows the most interest in the living dead.
What may be more shocking, however, is the complete lack of concern displayed by very large parts of the globe. Huge areas of Russia and China show absolutely no level of zombie awareness, while the entire continent of Africa has barely ten cities prepared for the chaos that the undead would undoubtedly bring.
The good news for Oxford is that the south east of England has a level of zombie awareness that rivals that of San Francisco and Hollywood, demonstrating a very high awareness of the threat that zombies pose to human civilisation.
Elliot Friedland, a third year student at Somerville, captured the spirit, commenting, “I’m glad that we’re zombie aware but remain concerned about the threat they pose.”
Ben Harris, a second year PPEist at St John’s, was also upbeat, saying, “I’m glad the zombie issue is no longer underground. I’ve always said we should get ahead of the undead. This is after all a grave threat.”
But there were also concerns about parts of the findings. Some students were dismayed at the level of global inequality of zombie awareness.
Ruth Evans, a second year psychologist at St John’s, said, “We should be doing more to send zombie busters to poorer countries. They could raise public consciousness of the issue and help them defend people against the outbreak when it comes.”
Friedland also pointed out that with such a high level of zombie awareness, “we could face massive congestion with everybody fleeing cities at the first sign of an uprising of the living dead”.
Controversy has however arisen over the validity of inferences from the map. One site user commented, “Is this not a map of places in the world which have a lot of Internet connections? If an entire population is obsessed with zombies, but they don’t have computers they will not show. For instance there is no big red blob over Haiti.”
However, another user stated, “I would point out South Korea, which has the highest internet penetration, yet a low zombie bloom. Which suggests that article is correct, it is English speakers who worry about Z attacks.”
Additional queries have arisen over whether the map is an accurate representation of information on zombie because only the English word “zombie” has been indexed.
One user commented, “They should include a search on Jiang Shi to get the rest of the world – of course not everyone calls them zombies… They should check with the guys in the language lab.”
Ben Harris noted the potential for distraction however, arguing, “I’m concerned that we’re getting away from the real threat – ghosts. The issue needs more transparency.”