Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bias in stock photography

I learned that Getty Images and Flickr have joined in an exclusive partnership. Both organisations represent some of the biggest resources of images of the world. Getty Images sells them to people and organisations that need illustrations. Flickr is a website where you can share your images with the rest of the world. As photographers retain their copyright, this partnership is to allow Getty to sell images of Flickr on behalf of the Flickr participants.

What is most notable, is the reason for this collaboration. Getty's stock has a bias towards what is photographed by typically Western photographers. As a result there is a bias towards Western subjects and more importantly, a lack of material that illustrates far flung places and events.

This same bias both Wikipedia and Commons suffer from. Given that Commons' user interface is in English, many people who are not able to communicate in English find it a hostile environment and consequently many Wikipedias in languages other then en.wikipedia do not contribute to Commons as a result. This in term leads to a bias in Commons as the material that is represented in the languages and cultures of those projects is missing; it is at best uploaded locally.
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