<CPOV> About Wikipedia Illustrated

Geert Lovink geert at xs4all.nl
Fri Feb 18 09:12:58 CET 2011

From: mushon at shual.com

Wikipedia Illustrated

While we’re celebrating the explosion of open source software and  
collaborative projects like Wikipedia, visual art has not been  
enjoying similar levels of passionate and generous online  
contribution. Open culture has developed inspiring text-based  
collaborative models, but have yet to develop successful models for  
open collaboration on visual culture. Wikipedia Illustrated seeks to  
develop such models. Through a book featuring 26 illustrated articles,  
a blog that follows the production and a set of workshops we hope to  
develop a methodology for contributing creative-commons licensed  
illustrations to Wikipedia.

Is the visual aspect of Wikipedia so lacking and dated because it  
could only use freely licensed images? Or is it that images have to  
become “historical” to become removed, objective, factual, and  
therefore applicable to the Wikipedia guidelines? Is the Wikipedia  
project really inviting visual artists to contribute their work to the  
commons? Or is visual work inherently less collaborative? As the  
project evolves it exposes the myths and biases behind these questions  
and reveals the surprising and complicated dynamics of open culture.

Here are some examples for the Wikipedia articles we chose for the  
project and for why we chose them:

	• /Ash_heap_of_history—Wikipedia seems to give a lot of room for what  
history has forgotten. But it seems to be doing so while forgetting  
the way history has remembered – through visual art.
	• /Wikipedia:Neutral_point_of_view—The principle of achieving  
neutrality and striving towards the middle ground is a key feature of  
the Wikipedia project. But visual culture has its own needs and  
processes. Collaboration on an image would not necessarily look like  
collaboration on text. The Wikimedia-Commons project itself recognizes  
that and chooses multiplicity over a unified visual content and style.
	• /Bathroom_singing—The individual echo chamber that often fosters  
creativity is actually also an important player in Wikipedia itself.  
In choosing articles like “Bathroom Singing” we embrace the esoteric  
edges of Wikipedia. We believe they expose the creative force of the  
subjective tone. Subjectivity is an essential component of the visual  
work. It makes sure that the image not only echos the text, but adds a  
substantial value on top of it.
	• /Unkown_knowns—we don’t know that we know how to collaborate on  
text. Wikipedia’s sophisticated ideology—its collaborative model has  
been perfected to slip into the background of the networked  
	• /Ignore_All_Rules—we don’t have a perfected collaborative model for  
visual work. It would not be dozens of participants collaboratively  
editing the same canvas. We have to ignore the rules that were not  
perfected for visual collaboration to find ways of breaking the  
individual creativity vs. networked collaboration deadlock.
	• /Fight-or-flight_response—Through the blog, the book, the  
workshops, we attempt to craft a new collaborative model for image  
making. One that does not fly away at the sight of mass collaboration.  
One that resists the initial tendency to neutralize itself for what  
some may consider to be a more collaborative practice. We believe it  
is essential for a liberated subjective image to hash out the  
difficulties before we preemptively attempting to solve them.
	• /Victory_(disambiguation)—But what would a successful result look  
like? Would we measure it by the longevity of the illustrations within  
Wikipedia’s pages? Would we manage to disambiguate visual culture for  
the sake of collaboration? Should we even attempt to? Or maybe the  
opposite is required? Maybe it is the time for “reambiguation”…
WikipediaIllustrated.org was initiated by artist/illustrator Galia  
Offri and by designer/educator Mushon Zer-Aviv and launched at the  
2011 Transmediale Festival in Berlin.
Mushon Zer-Aviv

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