Materializing Wikipedia

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Materializing Wikipedia is a collaboration with the Master Digital Design at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences to involve a group of students in contributing to designing new ways to present and talk about Wikipedia. Project developed in 2021.


A communication campaign with a local focus and using two tools: an exhibition and an app


Triggering the use of social media

Exhibiting Wikipedia[edit]


Structured as a teasure hunt, the app guides contributors to find landmarks (which need to be documented with photos) and it provides a reward.

Introduction and instructions[edit]

Structure of the app[edit]

Start your wiki adventure[edit]

Identify the monument on the map and get there

Take a photo and upload it

Collect your puzzle piece

Further outputs[edit]


The client[edit]

The nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation provides the essential infrastructure for free knowledge. It hosts Wikipedia, the free online encyclopedia, created, edited, and verified by volunteers around the world, as well as many other vital community projects.

The primary contact for this design challenge is the Italian chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation.

Problem space[edit]

Many people who read Wikipedia are not aware of the complex social and technical dynamics that are at the base of its functioning. Each element of Wikipedia is produced and edited by users (and, sometimes, by automated systems called bots). Behind Wikipedia, there is a strong community of people and a complex technological infrastructure that enables their work. However, the human and technological work that keeps Wikipedia running is not always seen by casual readers.

As an online resource, Wikipedia is also often perceived as “virtual” and detached from the physical world. Wikipedia’s pages exist primarily on the web, and not as “things” that can be experienced in a physical location in the world (even though, of course, versions of Wikipedia can be printed and/or saved, and some experiments have been done in this sense).

As a community, Wikipedia struggles in involving a more diverse contributors/editors with different backgrounds (in terms of ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, etc…).

The challenge[edit]

We challenge you to design and prototype a physical installation with digital components that materializes some aspects of Wikipedia, its community, and its socio-technical context. The proposed installation has the following objectives:

  1. Showing in an intuitive way the social/technical dynamics that make Wikipedia work,
  2. Creating a connection between some parts of Wikipedia and some places/things in the physical world,
  3. Making the general public (including people from minority backgrounds) aware of the possibility of contributing knowledge to Wikipedia.

Project vision[edit]

This project is successful when it delivers:

  1. A design for a physical installation with digital elements that answers to the design challenge. The physical installation must be easily “movable” in different locations (e.g., it could be housed in a container or in a van, it could be disassembled in a suitcase…). The installation is meant to be shown in public venues (e.g., libraries, museums, schools…) with a specific interest to disadvantaged neighborhoods,
  2. A working prototype that demonstrates the main functions of the installation,
  3. User journeys that detail the experience of the visitors to the installation (remember to be inclusive!) and of maintainers/curators/staff.

Special constraints:

All the work done for this project must be shared with the Wikipedia community. Your design process must be open and visible to the community members. Your clients/stakeholders will inform you more about this point. The license of the outputs needs to be compatible with the Wikimedia projects (can be CC0, CC BY or CC BY-SA). Recommended CC BY-SA.


The client[edit]

Our brief is about bridging the digital world and its community of Wikipedia to the physical world. Our challenge includes opening this digital community to a more diverse audience – to show people how easy and fun it is to be an active, contributing member of the Wikipedia community


This could happen at educational places like schools, libraries or museums but it could also take place in disadvantaged neighbourhoods or even somewhere completely opposite.

Target audience[edit]

  • To be defined after doing research
  • Non-active contributors


  • A movable physical installation
  • User journey map
  • A Wikipedia page about this project


  • Briefing, Debrief Week 1 (03.11 – 05.11)
  • Research, Week 2 (08.11 – 12.11)
  • Research, Ideation Week 3 (15.11 – 19.11)
  • Ideation, Prototyping Week 4 (22.11 – 26.11)
  • Prototyping, Week 5 (29.11 – 04.12)
  • Prototyping, Week 6 (06.12 – 10.12)
  • Prototyping, Production Week 7 (13.12 – 17.12)
  • Presentation, Week 8 (20.12 – 22.12)

Design Process[edit]


The research is based on desk research, interviews with several people within the Wikimedia-Community and students from the Amsterdam University of Applied Science. To gain a better understanding a spin-off of the Edit-a-thon was held which was followed by a brief discussion. Furthermore the insights have been extended by setting a box in different locations with a button, which plays the sound of Listen to Wikipedia.


Our analysis resulted in following main insights:

  1. People view Wikipedia as static.
  2. Public intalations need a call-to-action

User Journey[edit]

  • Picture to be uploaded*


Our main idea is to create a movement enabling people around the globe to upload pictures of different locations to Wikicommons through a scavenger hunt searching for puzzle pieces hovering around, in our case, bridges. This could be easily be scaled towards different locations with different points of contributions, such as monuments, graffity or other important sights.

The movement is initiated by a campaign talking about collecting puzzle pieces around town The experience involves people gathering puzzle pieces as collectibles whenever they reach the location. After collecting the piece the app asks take a good picture of the bridge so it will be sent directly to wikimedia.commons where all the material is lisenced under Creative Commons, meaning it is free to be used by anyone. In this way they are contributing with visual media to undocumented bridges.

User Test[edit]

  1. The flow of the app is easy to understand.
  2. It has to be clear why the movement chose bridge.
  3. People appreciate getting rewards for simple tasks.
  4. People have resevatioins with logging in.

Alternative Ideas[edit]

  1. Box
  2. Puzzle wall
  3. Football game



  • Critical Point of View: A Wikipedia Reader, eds. Geert Lovink and Nathaniel Tkacz, Institute of Network Culture, Amsterdam, 2011
  • Niederer, Sabine, and José van Dijck. “Wisdom of the Crowd or Technicity of Content? Wikipedia as a Sociotechnical System.” New Media & Society 12, no. 8 (December 2010): 1368–87.


  • Students involved: Sheila Guo, Milena Schwill, Flavio Valcarce Chavez, Benjamin Priego Walter
  • Wikimedia. ref. team Sara Saleri / Iolanda Pensa
  • Concept for the brief: Iolanda Pensa
  • Gabriele Ferri, Ph.D. Head of program, Master Digital Design Senior researcher, Civic Interaction Design, Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences http//

Thanks for the conversations, the hits and support to Victor Grigas, Erica Litrenta, Erik Zachte, Leila Zia, Dario Crespi, Valerio Bozzolan.