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Wikimedia Foundation/Communications/Wiki Unseen

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Wiki Unseen

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Pictures have power. Did you know we are more likely to remember pictures and images than words? And that on the internet, images have an impact on what people discover because search engines tend to drive more traffic to Wikipedia articles with images than those without? These are just two factors that contribute to a pressing problem in the open knowledge ecosystem: a lack of visual representation of Black people, Indigenous peoples, and people of color (BIPOC). So what does that mean for the numerous BIPOC biographies on Wikipedia that do not have images? It means more articles are left unread, stories untold, and faces unseen.

Video introduction to Wiki Unseen

Visual assets[edit]

Social media toolkit[edit]

We appreciate your support in spreading the word about the initiative through your social media networks. Please find key details, resources, and draft posts below. Please tag and follow!

We're using the hashtag #WikiUnseen, and each new image will be released throughout February:

  • 9 February: Esther Griffith's illustrations of Asquith Xavier & Mercedes Richards
  • 16 February: Bukhtawar Malik’s illustrations of May Miller & William Greaves
  • 23 February: Enam Bosokah’s illustrations of Marian Ewurama Addy & Rose Dieng-Kuntz

Social media handles[edit]

Sample posts[edit]

You can adapt the pre-drafted posts below for other channels (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn). We have included appropriate handles for other channels above. Follow these instructions to tag / mention other accounts on Facebook and LinkedIn. There are many options of graphics to add to your posts.

  • Like many knowledge spaces, @Wikipedia lacks visual representation — especially of Black, Indigenous, and people of color. To change that, @Wikimedia is starting a new initiative with @behance and @afroCROWDit. Discover #WikiUnseen ↓ unseen.wikimedia.org
  • This is #WikiUnseen: a project that is highlighting Black people and others from the global majority who changed the world, but whose pictures were missing from @Wikipedia. See more and get engaged ↓ unseen.wikimedia.org
  • Discover #WikiUnseen: a collaboration between @Wikimedia, @afroCROWDit, @Behance, and three artists aimed at expanding the visual representation of Black people on @Wikipedia and beyond! unseen.wikimedia.org
  • Redrawing history, one image at a time: Discover #WikiUnseen. The new project aims to improve the visual representation of Black, Indigenous, and people of color on @Wikipedia and beyond. unseen.wikimedia.org
  • 3 artists, 3 regions, 1 promise: to show the faces of notable Black people whose pictures are not on @Wikipedia. This is #WikiUnseen. See more about the initiative and get involved at unseen.wikimedia.org.

How it all came together[edit]

The Wiki Unseen project started with recognizing the visual gaps within the open knowledge environment. We kicked off this project with a list of 2,000 notable BIPOC people whose pictures could not be found on Wikipedia and, with the help of our partners at AfroCROWD, we narrowed it down to 20 historical figures. We counted on the expertise of our partners at Bēhance who suggested three artists from the same region as the subjects we wanted to illustrate; each artist chose two names they wished to depict. By commissioning original artwork and making it freely available – released under a Creative Commons Attribute Sharealike License, we are helping Wikimedia communities and people everywhere visualize what these historical figures – left unseen for far too long – looked like.

There is more than one way to tackle a problem this complex and make lasting change. Why did we take this approach? We decided to illustrate notable figures to combine knowledge and creativity, all while providing up-and-coming artists who hail from the same regions as those figures an opportunity to share their talent with the world in an artful and unique manner. Art inspires, drives change, and encourages people to share their vision, which can lead to increasing awareness of this pressing problem. Other possible approaches include procuring actual pictures and releasing them under a suitable license for Wikimedia projects. Successful procurement however can require significant or recurring licensing fees, ongoing negotiations or requesting the public release of photography from family collections.

Get involved[edit]

These are not the only pages on Wikipedia without photographs, however. There are multiple community-led projects that aim at closing knowledge gaps on Wikipedia—and everywhere. This resource, created by Whose Knowledge, should serve as a helpful guide for drawing Unseen figures for Wikipedia. When you make drawings of a person based on photos, you can take them as inspiration or reference. But you must make sure that your drawing is not: (1) a reproduction – the same image copied in a different mean; or (2) a derivative work – a new work with many recognizable elements of the original.

There are more than one million biographies that are missing pictures on English Wikipedia alone. If you would like to share your talent and help us close visual knowledge gaps, you can create an illustration and submit it to the Wikimedia Commons. Before you start, read the instructions below to ensure your submission will be accepted.

Notable figures missing pictures[edit]

If you would like to help but do not know where to start, check out the list below which features notable BIPOC whose pictures cannot be found on Wikipedia—or elsewhere. Like everything else on Wikipedia, it is important that the work uploaded is factually correct, so also add your research notes and source so your artwork can be considered and verified. Thank you for helping us share the knowledge by sharing your talent with the world!

Join a campaign[edit]

Wikipedia is powered by humans, so it is vulnerable to human biases. It is also a reflection of structural and historical inequalities in opportunity and representation experienced by many groups around the world. Join other volunteers who are working to ensure Wikipedia represents the full, rich diversity of all humanity. Les sans pagEs, Whose Knowledge's #VisibleWikiWomen, and Wikipedia Pages Wanting Photos are some venues for contributing creativity to Wikimedia projects.

Frequently asked questions[edit]

What is Wiki Unseen?[edit]

Wiki Unseen is a Wikimedia Foundation project in partnership with AfroCROWD, up-and-coming artists, and Behance, a global network for creativity. In its pilot phase, the project will be expanding the visual representation of six Black figures in Wikimedia projects coinciding with February, which marks Black History Month in some countries. Wiki Unseen was born out of a visible gap and inspired by existing efforts in the movement to advance knowledge equity and representation. The hope is to see its model replicated in the movement. By commissioning these works and releasing them under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-alike license, they will be freely usable on Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and anywhere else by anyone in the world.

How did you select the approach for this project?[edit]

We understand that there is more than one way to tackle a problem as complex as systemic underrepresentation and make lasting change. We chose to illustrate notable figures so we could combine knowledge and creativity, while providing up-and-coming artists who hail from the same regions as those figures an opportunity to share their talent with the world in a unique way. By using art we will be able to inspire, drive change, and encourage people to share their vision, which will lead to increased awareness of this pressing problem.

At the same time, procuring pictures and releasing them under a CC0 or any other free license is not always possible. That's why the English Wikipedia devotes a section of its non-free content policy to images that have "no free equivalent." Even successful procurements can require significant or recurring licensing fees, ongoing negotiations, or requesting the public release of photography from family collections. Wiki Unseen's approach is designed to complement the procurement of CC0 photography and invite underrepresented artists to join the Wikimedia movement to close visual knowledge gaps by contributing something that doesn't limit how they want to tell their story. Ensuring diverse identities feel represented the way they want to be and empowered to access and contribute to free knowledge is key to increasing equity and inclusivity on and off Wikimedia projects.

What is the scope of the project?[edit]

Our goal is to illustrate Black, Indigenous, and people of color whose pictures are missing from Wikipedia, or the internet as a whole. We are kicking off this project with six notable Black people from three different regions because we decided to launch this initiative in the month of February, when Black History Month is celebrated in some areas.