Critical issues presentations/(Dis)information-graphics – Problems, challenges and prospects of visual information in Wikipedia

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Submission no. 169
Title of the submission

(Dis)information-graphics – Problems, challenges and prospects of visual information in Wikipedia

Author of the submission
  • Martin Kraft
Country of origin



other, Projects, Technical

  • information-graphics
  • information visualisation
  • design
  • diagram
  • illustration
  • statistics

Since nowadays internet is a more visual medium than ever, graphics, photos and animations are playing a crucial role in the communication of knowledge and information.

In a culture, where the average attention span is getting shorter and shorter, many people prefer shorter bits of information. A well balanced in depth analyses of a topic (like a Wikipedia article) with many pages of written text often appears much less attractive than a concise headline, image description, graphic or photo illustrating on the same occurrence. Close reading is substituted by cross-reading and image watching. And easy as it is to oppose this development as a cultural decline, that should not be supported: These are the social conditions Wikipedia exists in, and it is our task to fulfil our vision of free and accessible knowledge within these conditions.

It is said, that a picture says more than a hundred words. Assuming this high information capacity of visual content, we are talking surprisingly little about the information we communicate with the photos, graphics and animations we use in Wikipedia articles. Compared to the high standards we established for the written content of Wikipedia over the last decade, we are pretty much still in the phase of “oh, it is nice to have at least something” in the visual field. Sure there are institutions like Quality Images or Featured Pictures. But they tend to target on the visual quality of images regardless of its article context. The deeper informational content and purpose of use is seldom discussed.

Most of the images used in Wikipedia are photographs that just display the person, building or landscape the article is about. And that’s fine - but with other types of visual content, we could move far beyond the pure illustration of something. Well-designed infographics, maps and diagrams are able to convey an even deeper understanding of a contexts or correlations than the corresponding text.

But creating a well-designed infographic is minimum as hard as writing a good article. And this is not limited to the need of basic design skill and the ability to us a graphic software. Often the first approach is misleading, visual false friends appear and a personal bias is as unavoidable as it is in the statistics the graphics are based on.

Therefore the purpose of this talk is..

- to show the importance of information visualization for the Wikimedia projects

- to encourage Wikipedians to create good infographics

- to raise awareness for the problems and challenges creating this visualizations and discuss some some examples (good and bad ones)

- to motivate non-designers to comment and question the graphics they are using

Being a Wikipedian and a professional interaction designer my motivation for this talk is to enhance the role of infographics within Wikipedia (and other Wikimedia projects), strengthening the position of this projects in comparison to the other (mainly commercial) competitors on the information market.



Interested attendees and comments